Universities and schools ready to provide rooms for quarantine facilitiesDeputy Prime Minister Pokharel says there are enough rooms to quarantine 100,000 people in the Valley alone.
School and college hostels in the Valley have been vacated to house those suspected to have contracted the disease, which has already killed thousands of people around the world.
This came after a task force on construction and management of quarantine led by Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai requested schools and universities to provide rooms if and when they are needed.
Several organisations representing private colleges and schools such as Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools’ Association Nepal (Hissan), Private and Boarding Schools Association Nepal (Pabson) and National Pabson have agreed to provide over 2,500 rooms in 69 schools and colleges in Kathmandu. The Hattiban-based Little Angels’ College and Budhanilkantha School have agreed to provide 100 rooms.
“It is the responsibility of the private sector to support the government at the time of a crisis,” said Lok Bahadur Bhandari, general secretary of the Hissan. He said private schools and colleges outside Kathmandu could also allot rooms for quarantine facilities.
The task force will now visit the academic buildings to ascertain if they are suitable to be converted into the quarantines.
As the incubation period for coronavirus is two weeks, those who could have been exposed to infected people need to be quarantined for the period to minimise chances of further transmission.
According to Dharma Kant Banskota, vice-chancellor at Tribhuvan University, 61 constituent colleges and two administrative buildings of the varsity could also be used for quarantine if needed. The university has over a dozen constituent colleges in the Valley.
Monday’s meeting of the high-level committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19, led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, concluded that there are adequate rooms in the Valley to quarantine 100,000 people.
Banskota said the university is also capable of testing the Covid-19 if given kits are made available. “We have an equipped lab to test for the virus if the government provides us with the kits,” he said.
Currently the National Public Health Laboratory in Teku is the only authorised lab to to test for coronavirus.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of March 31, 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 199 countries and infected more than 8,07,705 people with 39,456 deaths. In South Asia, Pakistan has reported the highest number of infections at 1,865 with 25 deaths. While India has reported 1,251 confirmed cases with 32 deaths. Nepal has so far reported five 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.