A hospital which sees a high number of patients from India ill-equipped to deal with Covid-19 suspectsGeta Eye Hospital in Godavari Municipality, Kailali, receives more than 100 patients from India daily.
Like most days, Geta Eye Hospital, a major eye treatment centre in Godavari Municipality in Kailali, was crowded with patients and their caretakers on Sunday.
The Indian government has decided to close all border points with Nepal, in light of the Covid-19 global outbreak, except four—Banbasa in Mahendranagar, Raxaul in Birgunj, Sunauli in Bhairawaha and Ranigunj in Kakadvitta.
Since Godavari municipality is adjacent to Mahendranagar, the flow of patients to Geta Eye Hospital from across the border has remained unrestrained. The closure of other border points will come into effect from Sunday night.
On Sunday, a majority of Indian nationals who reached the Geta Eye Hospital had made their way across the border after going through basic screening.
“We entered Nepal through Banbasa border point. The health officials screened us and let us enter,” said Lokamkani Joshi from Uttarakhand, India, who was at the hospital for an eye check-up.
According to the hospital administration, more than 100 patients from India visit the hospital daily. “But the hospital is not prepared to deal with Covid-19 suspect cases. The health workers are at risk of exposure to the virus, but we don’t have the necessary equipment or the support to screen patients right now,” said Gobinda Joshi, administrative officer at the hospital. “Around 500 eye patients visited the hospital on Sunday alone and around 40 percent of them were from India.”
The hospital staff fear that they could catch the deadly disease as the border lacks proper security and screening facility.
“We are at a high risk of Covid-19 infection. But we can’t discontinue our services here,” said Dr Suresh Raj Pant, chief of the hospital. “As a preventive measure, we have suspended eye camps, training and seminars.”
While the hospital itself has not taken any steps to screen the patients, it has advised the staff to wear face masks and maintain hygiene, Pant said.
“We have been referring patients suffering from common cold and fever to Seti Provincial Hospital in Dhangadhi. We are also planning to set up a health desk in the hospital to not only screen patients but also to raise awareness about Covid-19.” However, Pant was quick to comment that these measures may not be sufficient to minimise the spread of the virus. “We have to examine a patient’s eyes from half-a-foot away. We can’t move further from that. The close proximity with our patients increases the risk of transmission despite the preventive measures,” he said. According to him, the hospital is coordinating with the Provincial Health Directorate to establish a health desk at the main gate of the hospital to screen and monitor patients.
At the Banbasa border point, Nirmala Joshi, auxiliary nurse midwife posted at the health desk there, said the health workers were having a tough time screening the people entering Nepal.
“The number of patients headed to the hospital in Godavari Municipality is overwhelming. It’s difficult to screen each one of them carefully,” she said.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.