Infection fears in overcrowded prisons and lockups after a man catches Covid-19 while in police detention in KathmanduThe Supreme Court on March 20 had ordered the government to de-crowd prison facilities across the country to prevent the coronavirus spread.
A detainee at the Metropolitan Police Circle in Kalimati has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The 50-year-old man, who was being investigated for his alleged involvement in an online gambling racket, was transported to Ayurveda Teaching Hospital in Kirtipur after his Covid-19 test result came positive on Monday.
This is the third case of Covid-19 at the Kalimati police station. Two police officers had tested positive on May 20, following which the station was sealed for two weeks.
“The latest coronavirus case has caused fear among the officers and the detainees,” said DSP Rugam Kunwar, chief of the Kalimati police circle.
There are 150 officers under Kunwar’s command at the station and 13 people in investigative custody.
“Those officers who had come in contact with the infected detainee are currently observing isolation,” said Kunwar.
The police circle is also planning to conduct polymerase chain reaction tests on its officers and the detainees.
Nepal Police Spokesperson SSP Kuber Kadayat said till the date 387 police personnel have been diagnosed with Covid-19, of which 251 have already recovered.
Meanwhile, 160 officers who were diagnosed with Covid-19 at the Nepal Police Headquarters are still undergoing treatment.
Spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police Office SSP Sushil Kumar Yadav said Monday’s was the second case of Covid-19 seen in a detainee in Kathmandu district.
Earlier, a prisoner, who was transported from Sindhuli to the Central Jail in Sundhara, had tested positive for the coronavirus infection. He was admitted to the Armed Police Force Hospital.
Coronavirus infection has also been detected in a detainee in Satdobato Police Circle in Lalitpur district. No case has been reported in Bhaktapur so far.
Outside of the Kathmandu Valley, Covid-19 in a prison facility has been reported in Nepalgunj, Banke.
On July 16, an inmate and a security guard at the Nepalgunj prison were diagnosed with Covid-19.
The coronavirus infections seen in police stations and prison facilities have once again brought to the fore the issue of overcrowded prisons where physical distancing is impossible.
Laxmi Prasad Baskota, the prison officer at the Central Jail, said there is a high risk of coronavirus outbreaks in prison facilities if proper health and safety measures are not put in place.
“If even a single person gets infected, there is a risk of the virus spreading like a wildfire,” Baskota told the Post.
The Central Jail is currently holding 3,171 prisoners, which is more than twice its capacity of 1,400.
“There are definitely fears and concerns, but we are safe so far,” said Baskota.
The Central Jail has been admitting new prisoners only after PCR tests in recent times. However, Baskota said there is a risk of the infection spreading from the visitors.
The jail has been receiving five new prisoners and releasing the same number of prisoners daily ever since the country imposed the nationwide lockdown on March 24, according to Baskota.
Meanwhile, things are no different at Dillibazar Prison, which is currently holding 600 inmates.
“We are currently holding twice the number of inmates than this prison can admit. There is a risk of the coronavirus spread,” said Sita Adhikari, prison in charge.
According to the Department of Prison Management, over 24,000 people are currently serving in 74 prisons across the country.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on March 20 had ordered the government to release prisoners sentenced for up to a year for minor crimes. The decision was aimed at preventing the coronavirus spread in prions by de-crowding the prisons.
Following the court’s order, 409 prisoners were released from across the country.
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.