Health officials in Dailekh warn of difficult times with surge in Covid-19 casesEighty-nine people tested positive for the virus in the past week in the district, signifying a wider spread of the virus.
Health officials in Dailekh warn of stressful times ahead, as the district has been witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases in the past week. The number of cases had gone down significantly in the past few months but the district recorded 89 positive cases in the past week, raising alarm among health workers.
According to the District Health Office, a majority of the recently diagnosed patients are symptomatic, with some exhibiting severe symptoms that need critical care. Dr Niranjan Panta, chief at the health office, said most of the people who tested positive for the virus in the last few days have similar symptoms like cold, cough, fever, body ache and respiratory complications.
“Most of the patients need immediate medical care at hospitals. But there is a shortage of human resources, beds and medical equipment across the district’s health institutions,” he said.
To minimise the burden on hospitals, Panta says patients can be provided with medical care at quarantine facilities. But since there is a short supply of medical oxygen, that may not be possible in the district, he added.
“We have to import oxygen cylinders from Nepalgunj and there is only a limited supply,” he said. “This has ruled out the possibility of turning quarantine centres into temporary health facilities to handle the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the district.”
The health authority has also been struggling to manage isolation wards for the infected people. The district has a total of 50 isolation beds while it has around 100 active cases as of Sunday.
“The number of infections is increasing. We are thinking of using school buildings as isolation facilities again and have requested the local units to make arrangements for the same,” said Thir Prasad Regmi, the corona control focal person at the health office.
However, school managements and local units are reluctant to provide school buildings for isolation facilities. Some community schools have already started physical classes while others are considering operating classes after the Dashain festival.
The school authorities are hesitant to provide school buildings to be used as isolation facilities also because of the damage they had to bear when they had let their premises be used as quarantine centres and isolation facilities earlier in the year.
“School properties were damaged when the health authority used our school building as isolation facilities in the past. They handed back the school in a pitiable state,” said Nirak Charami, the headmaster at Tribhuwan Secondary School in Narayan Municipality. “The health authority should look for other arrangements since we are not keen on allowing our school buildings to be used as quarantine centres and isolation facilities again.”
The only other alternative left for health officials now is to advise the infected people to stay in home isolation, but that too comes with its own risks. “People in home isolation do not strictly follow the health protocol,” said Regmi. “Also, there is no way for us to keep a check on each one of them since we are already short on human resources.”
The corona control focal person anticipates further difficulties ahead since more and more health workers are getting infected.
Eleven health workers, including some doctors at the health office, tested positive for the virus on Saturday. According to the health office, only two health workers are working in the PCR lab of Dailekh District Hospital at present due to a shortage of human resources.
The District Hospital closed its services for four days from Saturday after some of its health workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Similarly, all ward offices of Narayan Municipality have been sealed for a week from Sunday due to the increase in the number of cases in the local unit.
With the increase in the movement of people across districts for the festival season, the chances of further spread of the virus are high. Basana Thapa, a local of Narayan Municipality, says she is worried about the district turning into a hotspot for Covid-19.
“Back in June, we were so scared when the number of cases hit double digits. I’m afraid we are going to reach the same stage again,” she said. “People are moving freely for the festivals and the authorities are not doing anything to prevent the community transmission of the virus in the district.”
“The market places in the district headquarters, Dailekh Bazaar, are now crowded with people shopping for the upcoming Dashain and Tihar. The situation will go beyond our control if we fail to take immediate measures to curb the spread of the virus,” said Regmi.
Dailekh has so far reported a total of 1,249 Covid-19 cases with 100 active cases.