Covid-19 fears grip police personnel after 44 officers in Nepal Police Headquarters contract virusLaw enforcement officers have been working without adequate safety gear, which has raised their risk of catching coronavirus.
After 44 staffers at the Nepal Police Headquarters in Naxal, Kathmandu, tested positive for Covid-19, infection fears have heightened among those police personnel working on the field with limited safety gear.
“With nine new cases confirmed on Thursday, the number of coronavirus infections among the officers in the police headquarters has reached 44. The infected officers are undergoing treatment at the Armed Police Force Hospital in Balambu,” said SSP Kuber Kadayat, spokesperson for the Nepal Police. “We have also limited the number of visitors to the police headquarters following the infection outbreak. We are only admitting those people with urgent services.”
After the government decided to lift the four-month-long lockdown on July 21, there were concerns that the decision might have been taken in haste. Public health experts had warned that Kathmandu Valley could become a new coronavirus hotspot due to overpopulation, non regulated people’s movement and a lack of safety measures.
According to Inspector Hemanta Bikram Thapa of Nagdhunga Police Beat, public mobility has increased in Nagdhunga, one of the entry points to Kathmandu Valley, after the lockdown was lifted.
“Everyday people from different districts enter the Valley and we have to keep their information record, for which physical distancing is difficult to maintain. We have to get close to the people to ask for their information, which is very risky at this time,” said Thapa. “Although we use face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers, it’s still not safe for us, as we are surrounded by people most of the time.”
According to data provided by the Metropolitan Police Circle in Thankot, a total of 3,710 people entered the Valley in the last 24 hours.
“We have to go to the field everyday to control crime, so maintaining social distancing is almost impossible,” said an officer on condition of anonymity.
He added polymerase chain reaction tests have been made mandatory for all crime suspects before they are presented before court, but when the suspects are held in police custody, there is no provision of testing, which has raised the risk of coronavirus infection among law enforcement officers.
According to the data provided by Nepal Police, 222 personnel across the country have contracted Covid-19 so far; 101 have made successful recovery.
“Most police personnel after finishing their day’s duty return to their respective barracks and stations. So if one officer contracted the virus, there is a high risk of the infection spreading among other officers,” said Hemanta Malla, the former deputy inspector general. “The regular policing work could be affected if a large number of police officers caught the infection at once.”
Kadayat, the spokesperson for Nepal Police, said although the rise in coronavirus infections among police personnel has increased the workload and stress for other on-duty officers, the regular law enforcement work will not be affected.
“The coronavirus won't affect regular policing work, as we have made plans and policies for such situations and we will work accordingly,” said Kadayat.
He added that the Nepal Police is currently working to manage the police barracks and disinfect police barracks and stations.
“Meanwhile, we have instructed the officers working in the field to exercise caution and follow all safety measures while approaching people during their regular duty,” said Kadayat.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of August 5, 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 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 18,700,119 people with 704,332 deaths and 11,915,046 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections 1,906,613 at with 39,820 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 280,461 confirmed cases with 5,999 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 21,009 cases with 58 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.