Municipal officials visit infected people to boost their morale in LalitpurPeople’s representatives hope their campaign will help end stigmatisation of the Covid-19 patients.
When a group of people came to visit her home at Harisiddhi, Lalitpur on Wednesday, N was nervous.
Her first thought was of her neighbours.
“News travels fast when one is infected with a virus,” said the 29-year-old nurse. "And then everyone starts behaving so badly that they make you feel like you have committed a crime by getting infected."
It was earlier in the week that she contracted the virus from her workplace.
“Last Sunday, I had a severe headache and after returning from work,” she told the Post. “I also had a fever.”
N works at Nepal Cancer Hospital and Research Centre at Harisiddhi. On the second day, she had a polymerase chain reaction test done at her hospital. Her result came back positive.
“My heart went cold,” said N, who didn’t want to disclose her name fearing the social stigmatisation. “Since then I have stopped going to work and am staying home in self-isolation.”
While N has her own home to live in, Rajiv Kurmi (name changed) is living in a rented room.
The 35-year-old tailor from Parsa has been living in an isolation centre built by Lalitpur Metropolitan City at Harisiddhi for the past eight days along with three others.
“I wish that my landlord does not know of my positive status,” Kurmi said. “If he comes to know he may not let me stay in his house.”
Discrimination against people who have tested positive is well documented, whether they are health workers or others.
In an effort to end such discrimination, Lalitpur Metropolitan City has launched a programme to visit those infected at their homes to boost their morale and this started with a visit to N and Kurmi on Wednesday.
Mayor Chiribabu Maharjan, Deputy Mayor Gita Satyal and other municipal officials greeted N and her family members from a distance. They handed over an oral rehydration mixture, paracetamol tablets, water purifier, soaps, mask, thermometer, and nutritious flour and sanitary pad. The city has called this pack ‘dignity kit’.
“The main aim of adopting this door-to-door drive to meet isolated people is to eradicate the existing social discrimination,” said Satyal. “We are optimistic that this drive will work as an antidote for Covid-19 infected people and their families.”
If nothing, this attempt by the City has lifted the morale of people like N.
“Their presence boosted my confidence and I felt the presence of the local government,'' N. told to the Post over the phone.
Kurmi echoed her sentiments.
“It felt good that city officials came to visit us,” he said. “They have provided us with basic items that are needed in isolation. When I came to know I was infected, I was too scared. Now the presence of the city officials has given me confidence and there is someone to look after me though I am far away from my family members.”
When the Post contacted mayor Maharjan, on the second day of his drive, he said the City plans to reach the household of each infected person with protective gear to inform people about the negative notion of Covid-19 prevailing in the society.
“We are confident that this drive will help reduce the stigmatisation of viruses that is pervasive in society,” he told the Post.
The kits are provided by UNICEF through the District Health Office where the city has added some ingredients.
The stigmatisation of those infected with the virus has highly hindered contact tracing in the Valley.
People have been giving wrong addresses when getting tested since an ambulance with health workers goes to them and the whole neighbourhood comes to know of the status of the infected.
It is estimated that in Kathmandu Valley over 700 people whose Covid-19 report came positive during tracing are out of contact.
Dvyi Gurung, the Covid-19 focal person of Lalitpur Metropolitan City, said over 80 infected people were out of contact. In Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s public health division, focal person Gyan Bahadur Oli said over 500 coronavirus infected people were out of contact as of last week.
According to Gurung, till Thursday 1,184 people were infected with Covid-19. Of them, 731 have already recovered and 30 have died. Till date, 390 people are living in home isolation in Lalitpur.
But despite such efforts, discrimination seems to continue. A couple who lived on the ground floor of N’s house were not allowed into their office.
“They were turned back from their office and told to present a PCR report,” said N. “The officials should not have come in a group that way. When there is such a large group visiting you, the neighbours come to know.”
Mayor Maharjan himself got infected with Covid-19 on Friday.
N. was still worried about what society would say, but she has a message to her neighbours and everyone living with Covid-19.
“Anyone can be infected with the virus any day. Keep yourself safe but please accept everyone and motivate the infected people as this will boost their confidence,” said N. “We need to develop a positive attitude to fight with this pandemic. Together we can win the fight.”