Rautes in Birendranagar unaware of pandemicThe nomad community doesn’t know the world is in the midst of a pandemic as authorities have not yet organised awareness programmes.
While the government has ordered a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the contagious coronavirus, which has already killed thousands of people worldwide, a Raute community in Sattari of Bheriganga municipality in Birendranagar is unaware about the global pandemic.
Leaders of the nomadic community say that although they have been hearing bits and pieces of information of the pandemic and the lockdown, they don’t know what it is really about.
Main Bahadur Shahi, the community chieftain, said, “I can’t direct people not to go out of the settlement, although I hear that there’s a nationwide lockdown.”
“We don’t have food grain left; all of us move about in search of food every day,” Shahi added.
Kamal KC, a local resident of Sattari, said the entire community is at risk as it hasn’t taken necessary precautions against Covid-19. “We have started taking precautionary measures, but those from the Raute settlement are still out on the streets looking for food,” he said. “We haven’t seen any intervention from the government to help them at this time of uncertainty.”
Residents of Sattari have asked the local administration and Bheriganga Municipality to restrict the movement of people, including those from the Raute community. “If the government can arrange food for them, they wouldn’t have to roam Birendranagar or Surkhet looking for food,” said Rudra Bahadur Khatri, another resident of Sattari.
According to Khatri, the Raute settlement is crowded and with unrestricted movement, the community is at risk of contracting and spreading the disease. Birendranagar has seen a surge in Nepalis returning from India due to the outbreak.
In the last few days, members of the Raute community have spotted asking travellers for money and food. “Rautes come in contact with many people. They are exposed to the risk of contracting the disease. Local authorities must intervene and protect the community,” said KC.
Satyadevi Khadka, chairperson of Raute Pratisthan, an organisation working for the welfare of the Rautes, said, “The government should organise awareness programmes and distribute face masks and necessary sanitary materials.”
According to Khadka, up to 15 Rautes live in a single hut. “All of them live in closed quarters. We have asked authorities to arrange better living conditions for them.” Khadka also said that the pratisthan has requested various public and non-governmental organisations to provide health check-ups for those living in the settlement, along with soap and water.
“But no one has agreed to provide the facilities,” she said. “No official has entered the Raute settlement in the last three weeks.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 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. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five cases, in which one patient recovered.
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.