Karnali province far from prepared to combat possible spread of Covid-19A 35-year-old man from Dailekh was reported as the first positive case on Monday.
On Monday, Karnali province reported its first case of Covid-19. A 35-year-old man, who returned to his home in Aathbis Municipality Ward No. 1, Dailekh, from Mahendranagar a week ago tested positive for the virus.
The infected individual is learnt to have stayed at Banbasa quarantine facility along the Nepal-India border for 45 days.
According to Parwa Singh Bishwokarma, the ward chairman of Aathbis Municipality Ward No. 1, the man was among the 39 rescued by Aathbis municipality from Banbasa on May 13.
“Swab samples of the 39 individuals were collected after they were sent to the facility,” said Bishwokarma. “The 38 others tested negative when tested using the polymerase chain reaction method at the Coronavirus Testing Laboratory in Surkhet. But they will have to stay at the facility for one more week.”
Following the test result, the 38 are staying at a quarantine facility in Laxmi Secondary School, Aathbis, while the coronavirus patient has been moved to an isolation centre at Dailekh District Hospital.
But the quarantine facility at Aathbis does not meet standards prescribed by the government. It is small, crowded and mismanaged. “We have to keep up to eight individuals in one room for lack of space at Laxmi Secondary School. Some of them are also going out of the facility to meet their family members. This has increased the risk of infection among the local population,” said Bishwokarma.
Until Tuesday morning, the coronavirus patient was kept in a room with eight others. Bishwokarma said, “The distance between Aathbis and Dailekh district headquarters is 70 kilometers. That’s why we could not take the infected person to the District Hospital on Monday night. He will be admitted to the isolation ward of the District Hospital by Tuesday night.”
Meanwhile, locals complain of the municipality’s negligence in its efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the community. Man Bahadur Shahi, a resident of Aathbis Municipality, believes that the municipality should have first made proper arrangements before deciding to “rescue” its residents from Banbasa. “The municipality brought those stranded at the border, but failed to make proper arrangements for them,” he said. “The Covid-infected person was in the same room with other individuals. Some of the individuals, who are staying in quarantine, also sneak out to go home at night.”
The municipality decided to seal off Ward No. 1 from Tuesday after the positive case was reported. Deepa Bohara, deputy mayor of the municipality, said, “We have sealed off the ward to control the spread of Covid-19. The infected person is under the supervision of health workers and his health condition is normal. We will have him transferred to the isolation ward at the District Hospital by Tuesday night,” said Bohara.
For the past one week, migrant workers returning from India have started entering Karnali after India resumed its railway services. According to the Karnali State Police Office in Surkhet, 339 individuals entered Karnali Province from India and 1,417 people reached Karnali from Kathmandu and various parts of the country until Monday.
But most of the returnees haven’t been staying in quarantine. Yubaraj Kattel, chief district officer, Dailekh, said, “There are quarantine facilities in the local units, but they do not meet the standard set by the government. The provincial government should have set up quarantine facilities with larger capacities near the border areas of the province and should have kept returnees in those facilities.”
According to the Ministry of Social Development, there are 5,533 beds (in total) in quarantine facilities in Karnali Province. Most of the quarantine facilities are in villages and lack basic facilities, including regular health checkup.
The provincial government has so far sent all returnees to the province to their respective local units. On May 13, the Karnali provincial government decided to write to the local units saying that quarantine facilities need to be set up at Karnali province borders (Babai, Kuine and Chaukune in Surkhet, Kapurkot and Kalimati in Salyan, Rakam in Dailekh).
But, people’s representatives in Karnali allege that the provincial government shirked its responsibility saying that local units alone cannot afford the cost and management of quarantines at those border points. Renu Acharya, deputy mayor of Bheriganga Municipality in Surkhet, said the provincial government has not helped set up a quarantine facility in Babai. “The government has been delaying construction of a quarantine facility here. We have no option but to send the returnees to their respective local units,” said Acharya.
The provincial government, however, plans to send returnees to their respective districts or local units only after screening them in Chhinchu, Surkhet. Naresh Bhandari, Minister of Internal Affairs and Law in Karnali Province, said, “We have started the process to set up a 100-bed screening centre at Chhinchu in Bheriganga Municipality. We have handed over the responsibility to set up the centre to the Nepali Army.”