There are 129 land crossings with India and China. Only 41 will get health desksThe health workers will ask people to remain in self-quarantine if they have influenza-like symptoms, officials say.
In a bid to screen people entering Nepal from neighbouring India and China, the Ministry of Health and Population is working to set up at least 41 health desks at various land crossing points.
Of the 129 land crossing points with the southern and northern neighbours, health desks will be set up at 41 busy crossing points in view of the global Covid-19 outbreak, according to the ministry.
"This is for the first time we will be setting up health desks in such a huge number,” Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, director general at the Department of Health Services, told the Post. "We have already brought some health desks into operation and more will come into operation soon."
The health ministry had deployed senior health officials including doctors in all seven provinces some two weeks ago to identify the land crossing points and sensitise the local and provincial health agencies about the risk of a possible outbreak of Covid-19, which is caused by the new strain of coronavirus, now dubbed SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in December 2019.
"As per the recommendation by a team of experts, we have decided to set up 41 health desks for now," said Shrestha. "We are working to supply basic equipment and materials—laser thermometers, gloves, masks and leaflets, among others—to the health desks."
While China has managed to slow down its spread, the virus has invaded at least 120 countries across the globe including South Korea, Japan, and the Middle Eastern countries, where a large number of Nepalis live and work.
Moreover, a spike in virus infections in India, with which Nepal shares a long open and porous border, has also alarmed health experts.
According to them, the risk of a disease outbreak has gone up following local transmissions in India, as thousands of people both from Nepal and India cross the borders every day.
"The risk of a possible outbreak has not lessened, as cases have been rising in India," said Dr Hemanta Chandra Ojha, an official at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division. "Local transmissions in India show that the risk still persists even as the weather warms.”
At least 62 people have been infected by Covid-19 in India.
The health ministry has asked local and provincial governments to deploy auxiliary health workers at the health desks.
The health workers will ask people to stay in self-quarantine if they have influenza-like symptoms. If symptoms match with those of Covid-19, the health workers will send them to hospitals designated for treatment, according to Ojha.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, according to the World Health Organization.
Ojha said since the Indian government had stepped up measures and health desks were being set up, there was no need for alarm.
The health ministry has also set up health desks in some busiest tourist destinations like Pokhara, Sauraha and Lumbini.
Dr Basudev Pandey, director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, however, said that services at most of the health desks were not satisfactory.
"We are doing our best from the available resources," he said. "We have increased surveillance, provided training to health workers and alerted all our channels to work seriously to prevent possible outbreaks."
Nepal so far has reported only one case, but health experts warn it is only a matter of time before the country sees an outbreak, as the government agencies have not taken the issue seriously.
So far, the deadly virus has killed at least 4,365 people and infected 120,588 worldwide.
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.