People rescued from abroad and placed in holding centers are coming out and moving freelyDoctors at TU Teaching Hospital say such people are reaching the hospital on their own not only for tests but also to collect the reports.
Last week, a 30-year-old migrant worker, rescued from Saudi Arabia and placed in a holding centre for quarantine in Kathmandu, reached Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku on his own, after he had tested positive for Covid-19.
The man had gone to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital for the test, where he was diagnosed positive.
Among several other people who lined up for the Covid-19 test at the Sukraraj Hospital on Friday, five were migrant workers who had returned from the Middle East and were housed in a holding centre in Kathmandu. They had reached the hospital on their own.
“Four of them tested positive for the coronavirus,” said Dr Sagar Rajbhandari, director at Sukraraj Hospital. “They all are in isolation at our hospital.”
Every day dozens of people rescued from Arab countries and placed in holding centers for quarantine are seeking polymerase chain reaction tests at the Teaching Hospital and Sukraraj Hospital on their own.
"They come to our hospital not only for tests but also to collect the reports on their own," Dr Santa Kumar Das, coordinator of Covid-19 treatment at the hospital, told the Post. "They start disputing with hospital staff, when they are denied reports."
According to Das, the hospital administration was not allowed to give reports of positive patients and had to be furnished at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division only.
Most of the people rescued from the Middle East and placed in holding centers are testing positive.
"They are roaming in the hospital premises, arguing with hospital staff and talking with other patients seeking treatment at our hospital," said Das. "We have also drawn the attention of the Health Ministry officials about the risk of the disease spreading in the hospital and outside, to no avail."
The government has converted some hotels and party venues in Kathmandu into holding centres to quarantine Nepalis returning from abroad. The responsibility of ensuring security in those holding centers is assigned to the Nepal Army.
"People rescued from abroad and placed in holding centres come to our hospital every day on their own for a test, " a doctor at Sukraraj Hospital said on condition of anonymity. "Such people are found roaming in the hospital premises and talking to people as no one knows who are rescued from abroad and who are not."
Public health experts say the government’s negligence could cost the general public and the country dearly.
"I wonder what else we can do if we cannot ensure security in holding centers and send health workers to such facilities to collect samples," Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Hospital, said. "If we keep ignoring the risks, the disease will be spread in the community."
The Health Ministry also concedes that people placed in holding centers are reaching hospitals on their own for tests as health workers have not been deployed for sample collection.
"The Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre is responsible for regulating the movement of the people quarantined in holding centers and collecting samples," Dr Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, told the Post.
“This type of mistake should be corrected. Those people should not be let out on their own. They should be either taken to hospital by the authorities themselves or call health workers to such centers for swab collections."
Meanwhile, the Army, which is tasked with ensuring security in holding centers, said that only the returnees who had polymerase chain reaction tests performed abroad are being allowed to go out on their own.
"Those people might have gone out for additional tests to be further assured," Nepal Army spokesperson Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey, told the Post. "Other people, who do not have test reports can also go out for tests under the supervision of the Army."
Nepal has been seeing a steady rise in Covid-19 cases, with the number of infections reaching 15,964 on Monday. The country has reported 35 deaths so far.
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.