All 175 Nepalis evacuated from Hubei Province test negative for Covid-1918 crew members involved in the evacuation left the quarantine centre on Sunday evening after they too tested negative.
All 175 Nepalis quarantined for the last two weeks after returning from Hubei Province of China, the epicentre of the new coronavirus outbreak, have tested negative for Covid-19, the disease attributed to the virus .
The results came two days after the National Public Health Laboratory, under the Department of Health Services, collected nasal and throat samples of the evacuees.
"All 175 who have been quarantined since their return have tested negative for coronavirus,” said Dr Bikas Devkota, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population. “They can go home now. Those from within Kathmandu Valley have already started leaving. Others who are from outside the Valley will leave tomorrow.”
The health ministry also said that all 18 crew members involved in the evacuation went home on Sunday evening after they also tested negative for the disease.
The government on February 15 sent a Nepal Airlines plane to Wuhan to evacuate the Nepalis. The plane brought the Nepalis home the next day.
The 175 evacuees were taken to the Nepal Electricity Authority training centre in Khariparti, Bhaktapur, which was converted into a quarantine facility.
The 18 crew members were quarantined at the Nepal Drinking Water Corporation’s training centre, near Nagarkot.
Meanwhile, of the five people kept in isolation at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku, two have tested negative, according to Devkota. They had visited the hospital on their own volition after developing influenza-like symptoms. Of the five, one had returned from China and the other from South Korea.
Since it was first detected in Wuhan, the novel coronavirus, now dubbed SARS-CoV-2, has spread to 69 countries. As of Monday, it has killed 3,058 infected 89,252.
While China has managed to slow down its spread, the virus has sickened people in South Korea, Italy and Iran at a faster pace, causing a global concern.
The World Health Organization, which has already declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, has raised the global outbreak risk to the highest level.
Nepal so far has reported only one case. But the government faced a barrage of criticism for its handling of the situation. This prompted health experts to say that it was only a matter of time before the outbreak came to Nepal.
After warnings from the UN health agency, the government has deployed more staffers and equipment at the health desk at Tribhuvan International Airport, the country’s only international airport.
The Department of Immigration on Monday said Nepal will stop issuing visas on arrival for citizens of China, South Korea, Iran, Japan and Italy, starting March 7. The decision will be applicable until March 30.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the government is also considering calling off Visit Nepal 2020, a campaign aimed at bringing in 2 million tourists from all over the world and at least 350,000 from China.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of April 8, 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 209 countries and infected more than 1,431,706 people with 82,080 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,351 with 160 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 4,035 confirmed cases with 57 deaths. Nepal has so far reported nine 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.