Local units in Province 5 have mandated home quarantine for returnees but without any regulationThe local units across various districts in the province have no record of how many people have returned and are currently quarantining at home.
A week ago, five individuals returned from India to their home at Purnihawa in Yashodhara Rural Municipality-5, Kapilvastu, but instead of being placed at a quarantine facility, as is the norm for returnees, they were sent straight to their families by Ward Chief Shyam Narayan Upadhyay. All four quarantine facilities in the ward had already been closed down, according to Upadhyay. The returnees are now living with their families and are moving around the village without any restriction, according to locals, raising the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in the community.
“I had informed the rural municipality chief about the returnees but since all the quarantine facilities were closed, they were sent home to self-quarantine,” said Upadhyay. All 29 quarantine centres in the rural municipality are now being emptied out.
Once home, hardly anyone adopts preventive guidelines for Covid-19.
“This has spread fear among the villagers but officials have not paid heed to our concern,” said Deependra Nath Shukla, a local of Sadwa in Kapilvastu-3.
Quarantine facilities in a majority of Kapilvastu’s local units, including Mayadevi, Yashodhara and Suddhodhan, are now closed since most returnees have completed the stipulated 14-day quarantine period and have been sent home to self-isolate.
The local units have no record of how many people have returned and are currently staying in home quarantine.
“The policy is that all the returnees should be staying in quarantine facilities for at least 14 days,” Yogendra Bhagat, chief of the District Health Office, said. “There’s no policy as such that says returnees can quarantine at home.” Kapilvastu has a total of 745 Covid-19 cases, the third highest in the country.
Like in Kapilvastu, quarantine centres in other districts of Province 5 have also begun to shut down. In Dang, many have fled quarantine centres as the test results have taken too long to arrive. And not all who are staying in quarantines are being tested.
“We have asked those who have completed 14 days in quarantine to stay in home isolation for seven more days,” Sunita Poudel, chief of the District Health Office, Dang, said. But even though the office has mandated home isolation, there’s no such body regulating it.
This has led to a rise in the risk of a coronavirus outbreak, further exacerbated by the fact that even those who are not returnees have been infected, said Narayan Gharti, chief of health department at Ghorahi Sub Metropolitan City. While at one point, the district had over 11,000 people in quarantines, the number has slumped to just about 3,000 now, according to Gharti. As of Monday, the district has registered 590 Covid-19 cases.
Meanwhile in Palpa, health workers are having a hard time regulating quarantine and isolation centres, and nobody is paying attention to those quarantining at home. The district has recorded 498 cases so far. Rem Bahadur Magar, chief of health department at Nisdi Rural Municipality, said that as coronavirus cases have seen a surge, health workers are scrambling to monitor quarantine and isolation centres.
“There’s not enough staff to regulate the quarantine and isolation centres,” Magar said. “In the current situation, paying attention to those who are self-isolating at home after completing their quarantine time would be a far cry.”
Sudarshan Thapa, the focal person at the Butwal-based Corona-specific hospital, said that making returnees stay in home quarantine would not be a good idea, as many houses in villages do not have separate toilets and many can’t even afford a separate room as stipulated by the guideline issued by WHO for home quarantine.
“Many local units are sending returnees straight to home quarantine without any regulation, which will only lead to a rapid community transfer of the virus,” he said.
(Manoj Paudel in Kapilvastu, Durgalal KC in Dang, Madhab Aryal in Palpa and Sanju Paudel in Rupandehi contributed reporting.)
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of July 13, 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 12,718,086 people with 565,138 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 849,522 with 22,673 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 248,872 confirmed cases with 5,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 16,801 cases with 38 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.