Authorities unprepared to tackle Covid-19 spike in LumbiniThe provincial authorities are yet to step up preventive measures to curb further spread of Covid-19, say health officials in Lumbini, where 238 new cases were reported in last 24 hours.
A week ago, a 31-year-old migrant worker from Gubrakot Rural Municipality Ward No. 13 in Surkhet returned home from India after falling ill. He was taken to Bheri Hospital in Nepalgunj a few days ago following complaints of shortness of breath. At the hospital, his test for Covid-19 came positive and he was moved to the ICU where he was kept on ventilator support. On Friday morning, he died while undergoing treatment for Covid-19.
Six critical Covid-19 patients are currently admitted to the ICU at the hospital.
According to the data of the hospital, out of 74 Covid-19 patients undergoing treatment at the hospital, 49 are in critical condition.
Health officials in Lumbini Province, where 238 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, have raised concerns about the growing number of infections in all major cities of the province. The provincial authorities, however, are yet to step up preventive measures to curb the further spread of Covid-19, they say.
“Neither the provincial nor the local governments are acting promptly to avoid last year’s situation where the entire province was in the grip of Covid-19,” said Tej Oli, the coronavirus focal person at the District Health Office in Banke. “We have requested the local governments to arrange ambulances for emergency use but we are yet to hear from them.”
According to him, over 200 Covid-19-infected individuals in Banke have been asked to self-isolate at home for a lack of beds in the hospitals.
“We put in a request for ambulances since most Covid-19 infected are in home isolation and if their condition deteriorates, we have to act fast and take them to a hospital,” said Oli. “Bheri Hospital cannot bear the pressure alone. It’s becoming increasingly important to sort out logistics and make arrangements for ambulances, isolation facilities and more hospital beds.”
Nepalgunj has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases in the past few days. District authorities in Banke say that the uptick in Covid-19 cases is mainly due to the free movement of people through Nepalgunj-Rupaidiha and other open border points in the district.
“Nepalgunj is at risk of being a Covid-19 hotspot again,” said Dirgharaj Upadhyay, assistant chief district officer in Banke. “We failed to keep a check on cross-border movement. We should have tightened security at the border points to prevent free public movement.”
Meanwhile, the District Administration Office has tightened the Nepalgunj-Rupaidiha border point from Friday to contain cross-border movement. Despite the measures in place, movement across other open border points continues to go unchecked.
“We have set up a health desk at the border point. Covid-19 suspects will be sent directly to a hospital,” said Upadhyay.
According to Dr Prakash Thapa, medical superintendent at Bheri Hospital, out of 183 swab samples collected from across the province on Friday, 127 tested positive for Covid-19.
“The situation is becoming critical by the day. If the number of patients keeps on increasing, the hospital will soon run out of beds,” he said.
Bheri Hospital is a 72-bed facility with seven ventilators, which doctors at the hospital say are not sufficient in light of the current caseload. According to figures provided by the Ministry of Health, 289 individuals tested positive for coronavirus in Banke district in the last three days.
“There are 12 patients in the ICU beds now. If we fail to bring the number of infections under control, the hospital will be overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases in the coming days,” said Dr Sudarshan Thapa, the focal person at the Coronavirus Special Hospital in Butwal.
There are 16 ICU beds at the hospital. “Of the 16 beds, three are defunct,” said Thapa.
Meanwhile, Kapilvastu has reported 16 active cases as of Friday. The district had not seen a single Covid-19 case since mid-February, according to the District Health Office in Kapilvastu. But the start of April marked the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the district.
“There’s a high chance of a Covid-19 outbreak in the district but the authorities are yet to take stern measures to control the spread,” said Umesh Ghimire, the coronavirus focal person at the District Health Office.
On Thursday, a meeting of the district level Covid-19 Crisis Management Committee in Kapilvastu directed the government offices to adopt necessary precautions to contain the spread of the virus.
In Nepalgunj, the Covid-19 Crisis Management Committee has decided to close all schools and businesses for a week, except those offering emergency and essential services.
“We have decided to shut down schools after the district saw a spike in Covid-19 cases,” said Uma Thapa Magar, deputy mayor of the sub-metropolis.
Education Chief of the sub-metropolis Gorakh Bahadur Thapa informed that 14 teachers and students have tested positive for Covid-19 in various schools of Nepalgunj.