Covid-19 spreads in hill districts of Lumbini ProvinceComplacency among general public and authorities one of the main reasons behind virus spread, health workers say.
Authorities have begun tightening prohibitory orders in various hill districts of Lumbini Province after the region reported a rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days.
The district administrations in Arghakhanchi and Gulmi, where the active number of coronavirus cases stand at 757 and 486 respectively, have banned the operation of public vehicles since July 31 to curb the further spread of the virus.
The first and second waves of the coronavirus had greatly affected several Tarai districts, including Banke, Dang, Rupandehi and Kapilvastu. The hill districts in comparison were less affected.
But the spread of the virus in Arghakhanchi, Gulmi, Palpa, Pyuthan and Rolpa districts indicate the onslaught of coronavirus in these hill districts, say health workers.
Health workers say complacency among the general public and the authorities towards the virus is one of the main causes of the virus spreading in these districts.
“People do not follow health security protocol. The virus is spreading due to the utter negligence of the people and that of the local administration,” said Pushkal Shreshta, the coronavirus focal person at the district health office in Pyuthan. “The prohibitory orders were relaxed too soon.”
As Pyuthan, Palpa and Rolpa report a rise in Covid-19 cases in the past few days, the respective district authorities have restricted mass assemblies and gatherings.
“Restrictions should be back in place because the situation is out of hand. People have stopped wearing masks and following health safety protocols,” said Padam Subedi, a local of Ratamata in Pyuthan Municipality-3.
Although coronavirus cases are increasing in Arghakhanchi as well, neither its health institutions nor the local units are prepared to tackle the possible third wave of the pandemic.
The district hospitals in Arghakhanchi and Gulmi are ill-equipped with no ventilator service to handle serious coronavirus cases. They have to refer seriously ill patients to Butwal or Kathmandu for treatment.
In Rolpa, the district health office has intensified mass testing after Covid-19 cases were reported in remote rural municipalities like Thawang, Sunchhahari and Paribartan.
“There were some cases reported from the villages of these rural municipalities so we are conducting as many tests as possible to identify and isolate the infected,” said Nokharaj Pokharel, the chief at the district health office in Rolpa. “The villagers are reluctant to undergo tests for coronavirus for fear of the disease. We are trying our best to convince them to get tested.”
The district currently has 60 active cases.
Similarly, Dr Sabu Kafle, acting chief at Rolpa Hospital, said the number of Covid-19-infected people has increased in the district of late.
“Many people from the district headquarters with symptoms similar to that of Covid-19 have started visiting the hospital for PCR testing. But testing in the rural areas is still negligible,” she said.
Palpa, another hill district in Lumbini Province, is also not prepared to handle the possible third wave of the pandemic.
Palpa Hospital, Rampur Hospital and other health institutions are still struggling to manage oxygen and enhance health services for critically ill patients. The federal government had released an Rs 8 million budget to set up five High Dependency Unit (HDU) beds and another Rs 7.5 million to install an oxygen plant in Rampur Hospital. But the hospital has yet to install the oxygen plant and set up the HDU beds.
“Work is on to install the plant and set up HDU beds soon,” said Dr Bijay Pariyar, the acting medical superintendent at the hospital.
(Shumsher Bikram GC in Pyuthan, Madhav Aryal in Palpa and Kashiram Dangi in Rolpa contributed reporting.)