Ineffective contact tracing increases risk of community transmission in KarnaliA large number of people in public roles have exposed themselves to the risk of Covid-19 while managing quarantine facilities, distributing relief, and attending public gatherings.
Ineffective tracing of contacts of people infected with Covid-19 has heightened the risk of community transmission of coronavirus in Karnali Province.
Officials say they are busy with administrative work at the end of the fiscal year and don’t have the human resources to track people in remote areas of the country.
“We were caught up in administrative work at the end of the fiscal year,” said Birsha Bahadur Shahi, chief at provincial health emergency operation centre which has been assigned by the provincial government to carry out contact tracing. “We tested some people who had come in contact with the infected. But we couldn’t expand our reach to remote areas as we don’t have the human resources to do it,” said Shahi.
With the limited contact tracing, it is getting challenging to stop community transmission in Karnali as local representatives, politicians, health workers and even musicians involved in managing quarantines have tested positive for the disease.
Last Friday, a member of the Karnali Provincial Assembly called a press conference in Birendranagar, which was attended by several lawmakers and mediapersons. The provincial assembly member tested positive for the virus on Monday.
“I was in a meeting with him (the infected province assembly member) the previous evening and then he was in a room full of people the next day,” said Dal Rawal, Minister for Social Development, Karnali Province. “We have collected swabs of other provincial assembly members, employees of the assembly secretariat, employees of his secretariat in the first phase. But we have been unable to trace everyone who had attended the meet.”
A deputy mayor of a town in Dailekh is now in isolation at Karnali Provincial Hospital, Surkhet, after she developed symptoms for Covid-19. But the District Public Health Office hasn’t tested other people who may have come in contact with her outside of her household.
Thir Prasad Regmi, focal person at the health office, said a health worker staying at the deputy mayor’s house tested positive for coronavirus last week. “We are yet to trace her contacts,” he said.
A six-member band that organised a series of musical programmes at several quarantines and isolation facilities in the province was also found to have been infected with the disease.
“We visited various quarantine facilities and performed concerts in the last few months. We were also involved in other social campaigns. We don’t know when we caught the virus,” said a member of the band who has been in self-isolation since her test results came positive.
A senior doctor at the provincial hospital also tested positive for coronavirus in June. The doctor, who also works at a private hospital in Surkhet, generally examines 50 patients per day at his private clinic. “I am very worried about a possible transmission of the disease from him (the doctor),” said a woman from Birendranagar who had visited the doctor three days before he tested positive.
According to the Ministry of Social Development, of the 1,727 people infected with the virus in Karnali Province, six have died and 232 are still in isolation wards, as of Friday.
Contact tracing has also taken a backseat in Birendranagar, the provincial headquarters, where public movement has increased after the relaxation of the lockdown. About 10 days ago, a service seeker who visited the District Drinking Water and Sanitation Office, tested positive for the virus.
While there, the infected man had met office employees. “We informed the centre after we came to know that the man tested positive. Later, we filed an application requesting contact tracing, but a team from the tracing centre was dispatched only after four days,” said Sushil KC, an account officer at the office.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 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.