Lumbini villages report rise in Covid casesThe prohibitory orders in place to curb the virus spread have failed to stem the movement of people in rural areas.
Ruksebhanjyang bazaar in Nisdi Rural Municipality Ward No. 4 has been sealed until June 12 after the area reported a rise in Covid-19 infections.
According to Rem Bahadur Magar, chief of the health unit of the rural municipality, out of 39 individuals who underwent antigen tests a few days ago, 21 tested positive for Covid-19.
“We had not expected such a high positivity rate. The results indicate that Covid-19 cases are on the rise in rural areas,” said Magar. “The health unit recently performed antigen tests on 76 individuals in Ruksebhanjyang and found 26 individuals infected with Covid-19.”
Ruksebhanjyang currently has 47 active Covid-19 cases.
“All Covid-19 patients are in quarantine at Gaurishankar Secondary School. The rural municipality provides food and shelter to the patients. However, there are no health workers available at the quarantine centre to treat the patients,” Magar told the Post.
The movement of people around the bazaar area has been restricted to prevent the virus from spreading, according to Neu Bahadur Sunari, chairman of Ward No. 4 of Nisdi Rural Municipality.
“Ruksebhanjyang bazaar has been sealed to control the spread of the virus after a large number of individuals from the same settlement tested positive,” Sunsari said.
Khasyeuli Harthok, another bazaar area in Ribdikot Rural Municipality Ward No. 3, has also been sealed for the last 15 days. The rural bazaar area, which is adjacent to the Palpa-Gulmi road section, is also greatly affected by Covid-19.
“We recently conducted PCR tests on 39 individuals. Eighteen people tested positive for Covid-19. There are 25 families living in the bazaar area and they are all at risk of contracting the virus,” said Sunil Adhikari, chief at the health section of the rural municipality.
At Itiya Tol in Rainadevi Chhahara Rural Municipality Ward No. 8, a large number of people were found suffering from common cold, cough, fever and other Covid-19-like symptoms for the past week. The health unit of the rural municipality ran antigen tests on 49 individuals; 11 tested positive for Covid-19.
“The health unit conducted tests on those showing coronavirus-related symptoms,” said Jeevan Rana, chief at the unit of the rural municipality. “We were informed about the matter after a migrant worker who had recently arrived in Itiya Tol from India tested positive for Covid-19 at a Butwal-based health facility.”
According to Om Prakash Panthi, information officer at the District Health Office in Palpa, Covid-19 infections are on a decline in urban areas but the rural areas like Rainadevi Chhahara are still at risk.
“The local units have not been able to expand Covid-19 testing,” Panthi said.
Although the district authorities have put prohibitory orders in place to curb the spread of the virus, they have failed to stem the movement of people in rural areas.
“Prohibitory orders have not been effective to curb people’s movement in rural areas. People are found roaming around shops and public places without any masks or maintaining distance,” said Narayan Chaudhary, a local resident of Kohalpur.
In Banke, too, there are many people suffering from fever, headache and other symptoms similar to that of Covid-19 in the rural parts of the district. But the local authorities have not initiated mass testing.
“There are many patients with fever in my village. But they have not been tested yet,” said Hemanta Chaudhary, a resident of Rapti Sonari.
Naresh Shrestha, the public health inspector in Banke, says antigen tests are being conducted only on those who visit a health facility for testing.
“But since not many patients with Covid-19-like symptoms go to health facilities for testing, we have provided antigen kits to the local units in Banke to ramp up testing,” Shrestha said.
Health officials say the rate of Covid-19 infection has been rising in the rural parts of Lumbini Province. Eighty-eight infected people are receiving treatment at Nepalgunj-based Bheri Hospital.
Dr Sanket Risal, a senior physician at the hospital, says the risk of Covid-19 is still high in the rural areas. “A mass testing should be conducted to contain the virus,” he said.
In Kapilvastu, the infection rate is higher in rural areas as compared to urban centres.
Umesh Ghimire, the Covid-19 control focal person at the District Health Office, said, “The infection rate is around 10 to 15 percent in the urban areas while it stands at 35 to 40 percent in the rural areas.”
One of the contributing factors to the low rate of testing in rural areas is the local people’s hesitancy to get tested for fear of social stigma, Ghimire said.
“The villagers fear ostracisation by their community members in rural settlements. They refuse to be tested unless their health condition deteriorates,” said Birendra Mishra, health unit coordinator of Yashodhara Rural Municipality.
The situation in Maharajgunj, another local unit in Kapilvastu, is also the same. Only 27 people underwent antigen tests in the municipality in the past month.
“We have set up antigen testing centres at 11 places in the municipality. But even symptomatic people refuse to get tested,” said the health unit coordinator Radheshyam Jayaswal.
In Dang, the virus is gradually spreading in the rural settlements but the villagers rely on homoeopathic medicines to treat Covid-19 suspects.
“There is utter negligence on the part of rural villagers. The villagers do not go to health posts even when they are taken ill,” Numananda Subedi, the chairman of Rapti Rural Municipality.
Most of the villagers are currently busy in their fields for the harvest of corn and other crops and in cultivating land for paddy plantation.
“Fever patients are increasing in the villages but almost everyone is working in the fields,” said Bhuwaneshwor Paudel, the chairman of Babai Rural Municipality in Dang. “Almost every household has a patient suffering from coronavirus-like symptoms but they refuse to go to the health facilities for the testing and treatment.”
Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 patients is on a decline in Rupandehi, a hotspot for the virus during the second wave of the pandemic. The flow of patients to various coronavirus-designated health institutions has eased in the past few days in the district.
Dr Rajendra Giri, chief at the district health office, said the number of Covid-19 cases is decreasing due to the prohibitory orders in place and a good recovery rate of the patients. According to him, 147 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Rupandehi on June 3 but only 65 people tested positive on June 8. The district has 1,062 active cases at present.
“The infection rate is declining in Rupandehi. Only 71 Covid-19 patients are receiving treatment—eight in ventilators and 24 in ICU—in six different hospitals in the district now,” said Asman Tamang, the chief district officer of Rupandehi. According to him, the health officials are carrying out antigen tests of more than 4,000 people in the community on a daily basis.
Thakur Singh Tharu in Nepalgunj, Durgalal KC in Dang, Manoj Paudel in Kapilvastu and Sanju Paudel in Rupandehi contributed reporting.