Workers making their way across districts on foot to reach their hometownsAuthorities are asking respective local units to make arrangements for the passing workers’ stay in quarantine facilities.
Thirteen workers of the Tallo Modi Hydropower Project under the Phewa Constructions have been stranded in Chhisti, Baglung, since Tuesday. They were making their way home to Dailekh from Parbat on foot.
“We have been walking on hungry stomachs since Tuesday morning. We don’t know if we can continue our journey home,” said Jiraj Oli, one of the workers.
The workers had started their journey from Chuwa in Kushma Municipality on Tuesday morning after the project work was suspended in light of the protracted lockdown. However, authorities are raising concerns about their departure since people’s movement has been restricted.
The Disaster Management Committee in Parbat has tightened people’s movement from one local unit to another and one ward to another during the lockdown.
According to the workers, they had received a recommendation letter from the office of Kushma Ward No. 8, allowing them to make their journey home on foot.
On Wednesday morning, the committee held a meeting in Kushma to discuss how the group of workers went out of the district and received a recommendation letter.
“How could the workers leave the district amid such tight security?” said Amrit Subedi, the assistant chief district officer, adding that the administration will soon take them back to Parbat and arrange for their food and shelter.
Around 1,000 labourers are working in various projects under the Phewa Constructions in Parbat district. Rajendra Pahari, a representative of the construction company, said around 900 workers were sent home before March 31.
“Some of the workers are still stranded here. The local administration did not allow us to send them home after March 31. We have managed food and shelter for the workers in Parbat,” claimed Pahari, adding that 13 workers left the district without informing the office of the Phewa Constructions.
Meanwhile, 24 workers from a brick kiln in Kushma were found walking along the Mid-Hill highway on their way to Bardiya on Wednesday. But the District Police Office in Parbat restricted them from leaving the district and requested the local administration to arrange for their food and accomodation.
Kalpana Ghimire, chief district officer of Parbat, said the local administration will provide food and shelter to the stranded workers.
“We will take action against the brick kiln operator, if found guilty, for sending the workers home,” Ghimire said.
The workers claimed that they were forced to move out of the brick kiln, as the operator did not pay them a month’s salary.
On Wednesday, 12 workers reached Besisahar from Marshyangdi on foot. They were on the way to their homes in Rukum, Salyan and Surkhet districts. Rabindra Man Gurung, deputy superintendent of police, said the police have requested contractor companies and local units to manage food and shelter for the stranded workers.
“We could not let them walk during the lockdown,” said Gurung.
Chief District Officer Laxman Bahadur Khadka said the local administration has been coordinating with the local units to make all stranded workers stay where they are.
On Thursday morning, 12 workers from Lamjung were rescued by the police from the Prithvi Highway in Dumre, Tanahun. Badrinath Adhikari, chief district officer of Tanahun, said the workers were on their way to Kailali.
“They have been rescued and taken to Damauli. We are going to keep them in a quarantine facility,” said Adhikari.
Aash Gurung from Lamjung contributed reporting.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 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 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four 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.