Complacency driving up Covid-19 cases in LumbiniNeglecting health safety protocols in public spaces a major reason behind the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, health workers say.
The number of active cases in Lumbini Province on Thursday stood at 4,166, according to the Health Directorate of the province. The province had logged 912 cases on Wednesday. Although the district administration of Rupandehi has put in a slew of restrictive measures on public gatherings, neither the public nor the local leaders seem to be adhering to the protocol.
On Tuesday, two ministers attended the general meeting of a cooperative at Mayadevi-6 in Rupandehi. There were over a hundred participants at the programme, according to Abhay Tiwari, manager of the cooperative.
“The cooperative has over 2,000 members. On Tuesday, there were at least 500 people present at the meeting,” he said.
Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Sahasram Yadav and Minister of State for Finance and Cooperatives Sushma Yadav were present as guests. The latter did not wear a mask throughout the programme while the other dignitaries on stage did not wear theirs correctly.
“I was infected with the virus before and since then I find it very difficult to wear a mask,” said Sushma. “I can’t breathe properly with a mask on.”
Health posts, government offices, restaurants, markets and bus parks are still crowded with people, fuelling the further spread of the virus.
“The marketplaces are still crowded and people are not following any health safety measures,” said Kabita Panti, a resident of Tilottama Municipality ward 2.
“The local administration has halted all essential services but it has stopped short of introducing new directives in line with Covid-19 protocol,” she said
Chief District Officer Rishi Ram Tiwari, who is also the coordinator of the District Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre, said, “I am trying to get information about all the big events taking place in the district. I will stop public programmes organised without following health safety protocols as soon as I get the information.”
According to the District Administration Office in Rupandehi, some of its employees have been infected with the virus and are currently in isolation. The district administration office has suspended all non-essential services from Wednesday onwards.
“Fifteen of our employees have tested positive for coronavirus so we have cut down on our services,” said Tiwari. “We used to have more than 700 service seekers before we suspended non-essential services. We still get around 100 people on a daily basis.”
“The Covid-19 infection is spreading like wildfire because of the negligence of the general public and those in decision-making positions,” said Dr Rajan Pandey, physician consultant of Bheri Hospital in Nepalgunj. “People are taking the third wave of the pandemic very lightly because they think the Omicron variant does not do much damage. But that’s not true. This variant of the virus can also do severe damage and make you very sick.”
Gatherings of people in political parties’ conventions and overcrowding in marketplaces and government offices are the reasons behind the rise in the infection rate.
“If the rate of infection does not hit a plateau soon, our health infrastructure will also be overwhelmed,” said Pandey. “Currently, more than 30 patients have been admitted to Bheri Hospital and are in the ICU on oxygen support.”
In Lumbini Cultural Municipality, the number of Covid-19 cases has also increased.
“We know the infection has reached the villages so we have started conducting antigen tests on Covid-19 suspects and those who have come in their contact,” said Manmohan Chaudhary, the municipality mayor.
In Mayadevi Rural Municipality, some employees of the municipal office, including the chairperson, have tested positive for the virus.
“I was working until the day I tested positive so I don’t know how many people came in contact with me,” said Chairman Dhruv Narayan Chaudhary.
Although a couple of cases were reported from Kapilvastu's Vijayanagar Municipality, the local unit has not initiated contact tracing of Covid-19 suspects. Chairman Gopal Bahadur Thapa Magar says that steps are being taken to tackle the spread of the virus in the municipality.
“We are asking the public to follow health safety protocols,” said Thapa Magar.