Lumbini Province sees surge in Covid-19 casesHealth officials are concerned about cases increasing in all districts of the province that borders with India.
The Covid-19 ward at Bheri Hospital, a Nepalgunj-based hospital designated for coronavirus treatment, had only six patients two months ago. Soon, the number of active cases in Banke fell to zero and the local governments decided to close down all isolation and quarantine facilities.
Now, the district in Lumbini Province is once again witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases, raising concerns among public health officials that the district might turn into a hotspot for Covid-19 yet again.
According to the District Health Office, a total of 109 Covid-19 cases were reported in the district in the past two weeks. As many as 86 people tested positive for the virus in the last three days alone.
“The Covid-19 ward at Bheri Hospital was empty two months ago. But now the ward is filled with Covid-19 patients once again. If this continues, there’s a high chance of Banke turning into a breeding ground for the virus,” said Dr Prakash Thapa, chief at Bheri Hospital. “People are flouting health protocols such as wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining physical distancing in public areas and this has put the entire population at risk of contracting Covid-19.”
Many people are taking the disease too lightly these days, says Thapa, but the virus still poses a serious threat to the general public.
“The local authorities must set up quarantine and isolation facilities again. There are a total of 142 beds in the Covid-19 ward, 15 isolation beds and 25 beds with ventilator facilities at the hospital but that may not be enough in the coming days,” he said.
The District Health Office is equally worried about the unchecked cross-border movement along the Nepal-India border in Lumbini Province.
The office on March 24 set up a health desk at Nepalgunj-Rupaidiha border point given the high volume of workers returning to the country from India, where coronavirus cases are surging.
According to the office, out of 124 antigen tests conducted on Nepali returnees at the health desk so far, 10 results have come positive for Covid-19.
Around 500 people have been entering the country daily through the border point, but the health desk is not equipped to run antigen tests on every individual.
“We cannot test all people entering Nepal due to a lack of required human resources and equipment. We run tests only on those individuals with visible symptoms. The infected people are then sent to Bheri Hospital for treatment,” said Dhirjung Shah, chief at the District Health Office in Banke.
Meanwhile, public health officials in Rupandehi are concerned about the increasing number of Covid-19 cases that are being reported in educational institutions. Two educational institutions in the district have been closed after students and employees tested positive for the virus.
A campus in Siddharthanagar has been closed for 10 days starting April 5, as two students tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday and Wednesday respectively. The campus carried out antigen tests of 28 students and employees later. Among them, a bus driver tested positive for the virus. All of them are now in home isolation.
Dr Sudarshan Thapa, the focal person at Corona Special Hospital in Butwal, said that educational institutions should be on high alert to protect children from the second wave of the virus.
“People have been ignoring health safety protocols as Covid-19 cases were not reported in Rupandehi district for many days until three weeks ago. Coronavirus cases are now increasing due to the carelessness of the people,” said Thapa. “At least two Covid-19 patients with serious symptoms are brought to the hospital on a daily basis these days.”
Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City has also decided to close a secondary school for at least five days starting from Sunday, as seven teachers and employees were infected with the virus on Thursday. The teachers and employees of the school had returned after visiting various places in the country last week. According to the school administration, all the infected employees are in home isolation.
There are a total of 38 community schools and 58 institutional schools in Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City.
The district administration and the local government have urged schools and colleges to implement strict health safety measures.
“We have notified all schools to maintain physical distancing protocols and use face masks and hand sanitisers. The students, teachers and employees should be kept in isolation in case they are found infected with the virus,” said Mitramani Khanal, the chief at the health unit of Butwal Sub-metropolis.
“We might be heading towards a dire situation if immediate preventive measures are not taken. Health check-ups should be conducted on those returning from India through various border points,” said Roma Ghimire, a lab technician at Siddhartha Municipality.
According to Kedarnath Sah, an officer at the District Health Office in Rupandehi, there are 86 active cases of Covid-19 in the district. As many as 65 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the last three days. A total of 9,216 people have been infected with Covid-19 in Rupandehi so far with 86 deaths.