15 staff at anti-corruption agency headquarters in Kathmandu test positive for coronavirus infectionMost of the infected are police personnel who could have potentially contracted the virus from the nearby police headquarters, where an outbreak was reported just days earlier.
Fifteen employees at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, mostly police personnel, have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division of the Health Ministry had collected swab samples of 182 employees at the anti-graft body for tests.
“We have been notified that 15 employees, with over a dozen police personnel, are infected with the virus,” Ganesh Raj Joshi, commissioner of the anti-graft body, told the Post.
An official of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division also confirmed the infections among the commission’s staffers.
There are over 450 staff working at the headquarters of the commission. Around 100 of them are police personnel.
Joshi said that infections were not found among the employees working at the secretariat of the chief commissioner, Nabin Ghimire, and the commissioners, Joshi and Sabitri Thapa Gurung.
After the infections were reported among the employees, the building housing the police personnel inside the commission’s headquarters has been sealed, said Deputy Inspector General Arun BC, who heads the police unit of the commission.
“We have yet to ascertain the names of the infected staff. So contact tracing work has not started yet,” he said on Tuesday afternoon..
According to him, since all police personnel working for the commission live and eat in the same building, there is a high chance of other infections among other officers.
The commission plans to test more employees. It also plans to run the office with limited staff numbers for now.
“No decision has been made on how to run the office, but we will be operating with a limited workforce,” said commissioner Joshi.
With 259 infections confirmed on Tuesday, the Covid-19 cases in the country has reached 21,009.
The latest outbreak of infection among the police personnel at the headquarters of the anti-graft agency comes just days after a similar outbreak was reported inside the Nepal Police headquarters.
BC, the deputy inspector general, said it was too early to say if the infections among the staff at the commission had originated from the nearby police headquarters.
He said officers working for the commission rarely visit the police headquarters.
There has been a spike in Covid-19 cases, particularly in Kathmandu Valley, ever since the government lifted the lockdown on July 21 after nearly four months. Although the lockdown was lifted on condition that health and safety protocols are strictly followed, people have been found brazenly violating the mandatory mask and physical distancing rules.
Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population, had recently said that even the government staff working inside Singh Durbar, the main administrative centre of the federal government, were not maintaining social distance among themselves.
“The cases are resurging in recent days as people are not following the social distancing rules. They are gathering in protest rallies and religious festivals and events without any care for their safety and that of others,” he had said during a regular press briefing.
Health experts had long been warning the government about the potential coronavirus infection outbreaks, long before the lockdown was lifted, particularly among front line workers.
They had urged the government to lift the lockdown restrictions only after setting up proper public health safety measures.
The recent spate of infections among security personnel and health officials suggest that the government did not heed to this request.
Some health experts have blamed the government failing to adopt the right strategy to confront the deadly virus.
They say the coronavirus infections among security personnel show that the front line workers are particularly vulnerable.
The Nepal Police personnel, whose duty is to maintain law and order, must interact with the public to do their job, and without adequate protective gear and safety measures, they could contract the virus from an infected individual.
Likewise, a large number of Armed Police Force personnel are on border security duty, which makes them vulnerable to infection from the people crossing the border.
The government has also mobilised the Nepal Army in the management and operation of holding centres and quarantine facilities.
Health experts say as police and military personnel live in barracks and eat in communal messes, if even one of them is infected have contracted the virus, they could infect several of their fellow officers.
According to Nepal Police, as many as 262 police personnel have so far been infected with the coronavirus; 73 of them were the officers at the police headquarters in Naxal, Kathmandu.
Nepal Police Spokesperson SSP Kuber Kadayat told the Post police personnel have been told to take necessary precaution and follow the health protocol to stay safe.
“We have also been decontaminating the barracks where the Covid-19 cases were identified and conducting contact tracing to stop the infection,” he said.
The Armed Police Force has reported 131 coronavirus infections among its officers with 63 active cases. The biggest outbreaks were reported in the barracks in Ilam and Jhapa.
Armed Police Force Spokesperson DIG Raju Aryal said as many as 96 personnel in Ilam and 33 in Jhapa were infected.
“We suspect the infection spread from the officers who were deployed on border security duty,” he said. “In order to prevent the spread of the infection, we have made separate accommodation arrangements for the personnel deployed for border security.”
Likewise, Nepal Army has also reported a total of 103 cases with 27 active cases.
“There are some additional suspected cases whose test results have not arrived yet,” said Brigadier General Santosh Ballav Poudyal.
He said the Nepal Army personnel were at high risk of contracting coronavirus as they are involved in management of quarantine and holding centres, and managing the bodies of people who have died of Covid-19.