More than 1,000 people entered Sindhupalchok in the last few days but none were quarantinedQuarantine facilities have been set up across three municipalities and nine rural municipalities in the district but most remain unoccupied.
Between Tuesday and Friday, more than 1,000 people stranded in Kathmandu and other cities entered Sindhupalchok after people’s representatives of various local units in the district took it upon themselves to arrange for transportation for those stranded.
While many have applauded the local representatives’ initiatives, people of Sindhupalchok are concerned about the new entrants being carriers of the novel coronavirus. What has added to their fears is the fact that the incoming passengers were sent home after having just their temperatures checked.
Suman Shrestha, a resident of Barhabise, said the returnees should have been kept at a quarantine facility instead of being sent home directly upon arrival.
“The authorities should have taken better measures to check for Covid-19 among the returnees. Only checking for fever is not enough,” he said. “They have arrived in the villages without having stayed in a quarantine facility. The local units’ decision might lead to an outbreak of the disease in the villages.”
Around 200 individuals arrived at Tripurasundari Rural Municipality Ward 3, 4 and 5 in five buses on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Sukadev Risal, the chairman of Tripurasundari Ward No. 3, claimed that the local unit had sprayed disinfectants on all five buses that carried people into the rural municipality and had run health checks on all passengers.
“They were sent home after having their health checked by health workers at Sunkoshi and the Damsite. Since they did not have any symptoms of Covid-19, we sent them home on condition that they stay in self-quarantine,” said Risal.
Sunkoshi Rural Municipality too rescued its people from Kathmandu and other areas from Tuesday to Friday. Shrawan Kumar GC, head of the local government, said the rural municipality managed 10 buses to rescue individuals who wanted to return to their villages.
“We brought them to the rural municipality from Kathmandu and other cities and sent them home after conducting preliminary health check-ups. We have asked them to contact the ward offices if they face health problems,” said GC.
The situation is almost similar in all 12 local units of Sindhupalchok. Durgadatta Chapagain, a senior public health officer, said his office had requested all local units to keep the incoming people in quarantine for 14 days.
“But there’s no coordination among the authorities. The local representatives brought so many people into the district but did not manage quarantine facilities for them. We don’t even know the exact number of people who entered the district in the last few days,” said Chapagain. “This issue should be taken very seriously. It could lead to an outbreak of coronavirus in the district.”
Deputy Superintendent of Police Madhav Prasad Kaphle of the District Police Office said the police too don’t have the exact data of individuals who entered the district during the lockdown period.
“It was the people’s representatives’ decision to rescue stranded people from Kathmandu and other areas. The security personnel only supported the local units in their effort. It is the responsibility of the local units to make proper arrangements for them,” said Kaphle.
According to Chapagain, quarantine facilities with around 500-bed cumulative capacity have been set up across three municipalities and nine rural municipalities in the district but most of them are unoccupied.
“There are only 24 individuals in the district’s quarantine facilities,” said Kaphle.
On Thursday, the committee formed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 directed all local units to manage quarantine facilities for those who entered the district during the lockdown.
“The committee has directed the local units to set up quarantine facilities for the newcomers. And if that is not possible, they were to ask the individuals to stay in self-quarantine,” said Chief District Officer Umesh Kumar Dhakal.