Contact tracing is getting complicated as test subjects are not providing genuine personal detailsStigma surrounding the Covid-19, most likely exacerbated by the incidents of discrimination faced by patients from their landlords and neighbours, has caused the people to give false information, officials say.
Many people infected with the coronavirus have been found to have been giving false personal details, like their addresses and phone numbers, to the authorities which has created a challenge in contact tracing and raised the risk of community transfer, officials say.
The stigma surrounding the Covid-19, most likely exacerbated by the incidents of discrimination faced by patients from their landolords and neighbours, has led to the coronavirus test subjects to give false information about themselves, according to officials at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.
"We are facing difficulty tracing contacts of the infected people. Many people are not providing their genuine addresses when they are undergoing tests," Dr Basudev Pandey, director at the division, told the Post.
There have been cases where officials deployed for contact tracing have failed to reach the infected people who have provided false personal details. Pandey says delaying the intervention will not only risk the health of the person in question but also their family members, friends and neighbours.
In Kathmandu Valley, Pandey says several people seeking Covid-19 tests at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, Bir Hospital and others health facilities have been found either providing false addresses or giving addresses of their hometowns outside the Valley.
Health officials fear the number of infected people might have risen exponentially due to the delay in contact tracing caused by the false addresses.
Lila Bikram Thapa, senior public health administrator at the division, says this problem has been persisting right from the beginning when people entered the country via international flights.
“Many people had registered false addresses and contact numbers at the time of their arrival. The Health Ministry had to seek help from the Foreign Ministry to locate these people, which took several days,” Thapa told the Post.
Thapa reckons that the public at large are unaware about the risk of withholding or distorting one’s personal information when it comes to this disease.
"We have failed to communicate to the public about the risk factors. The knowledge about the disease itself is also apparently lacking, which in turn has caused many people to assume a discriminatory attitude towards those who are infected by the virus or are suspected to have been infected,” Thapa said.
Even health workers have become victims of coronavirus discrimination from their landlords and neighbours.
While some health officials have raised the alarm about the coronavirus unnoticeably spreading in communities, the Health Ministry has maintained that the virus has not spread in communities so far.
"We have not seen community transmission of the virus yet. The ministry has been reviewing the pattern of disease spread," Dr Bikash Devkota, the ministry’s spokesperson, said.
While the task of contact tracing is being conducted by health workers at local units and district health offices in the coronavirus-hit areas, Kathmandu has been wholly relying on the agencies under the Health Ministry for the job.
Both Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Kathmandu District Health Office lack the human resource to carry out contact tracing, according to Narendra Bajracharya, chief at the Health Department of Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
"We need a team, including lab technicians and staff nurses, for contact tracing. As we do not have enough staff, we have been relying on the agencies under the ministry for contact tracing," Bajracharya told the Post.
The Kathmandu District Health Office, meanwhile, has only four staff members and they cannot be deployed for contact tracing even though the number of infected people in Kathmandu is rising.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 31, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 6,047,908 people with 368,758 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 66,457 confirmed cases with 1,395 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 1401 cases with six deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.