Sudurpaschim braces for Covid-19, but lacks preparednessSome districts are solely dependent on understaffed and underequipped health desks to stave off coronavirus.
Lokendra Kathayat, a health assistant at Sujung Hospital in Doti, has been mobilised to a health desk set up by the district administration in Pipalla Bazaar to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.
Kathayat’s job entails disseminating information about the virus, which causes Covid-19, the ways to prevent it, and what measures to take if someone has symptoms akin to that of Covid-19 patients. He does not offer any other medical services to the people because he is the only person manning the health desk, which lacks the necessary equipment to screen the people.
The District Administration Office has also established such health desks at Silgadhi, Mauwa and Budar. These health desks, too, are understaffed and underequipped to screen the people for possible coronavirus infection.
According to Kathayat, only a few people seek services at the health desk.
“I even tried walking up to the people travelling in public vehicles to inform them about coronavirus and Covid-19, but they were not concerned. I have been deployed here alone and no one is listening to me,” Kathayat lamented.
He suggests that the local administration provide health professionals and equipment to the health desks and make the screening for fever and other symptoms compulsory.
The health desks will mean nothing unless they start screening the people for possible Covid-19.
“This initiative taken by the local administration is half-baked. There should be at least five health workers at every health desk,” said Nawaraj Joshi, a resident of Dipayal.
Chief District Officer Tek Narayan Paudel said the local administration had established the health desks only to raise awareness about coronavirus.
“It’s not practical to screen every passenger travelling in public vehicles. For the time being, we have started to raise awareness about the virus through these health desks,” he said.
In Kailali, too, preventive measures against Covid-19 have been sluggish.
Most of the health posts and primary health centres in rural areas are yet to come up with coronavirus contingency plans. Public awareness about the disease, particularly in rural areas, is low.
But not all districts in Sudurpaschim Province have been slow to take preventive measures against coronavirus outbreak.
In Bajhang, for instance, the local administration has instructed the medical facilities and health professionals to remain alert for the possible spread of the viral disease. It has also established health desks at Syadi, the Nepal-India border point, Dhuli, Simkhet Bus Park, and the District Hospital to screen passengers and raise public awareness about Covid-19.
Similarly, the local administration in Achham has also established health desks at Chaukhutte Bazaar, Sanfebagar Airport and Belkhet. The District Health Office has deployed two health workers in each health desk, Jhanakraj Dhungana, chief of Achham Health Office, said.
The health desks were set up to screen the people returning from India because of coronavirus pandemic.
“Many Nepali migrant workers are returning home from various Indian cities these days. This has increased the risk of coronavirus spread here,” Dhungana said.
(Basanta Pratap Singh in Bajhang, Menuka Dhungana in Achham and Ganesh Chaudhary from Tikapur contributed reporting.)
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 31, 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 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 6,047,908 people with 368,758 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 66,457 confirmed cases with 1,395 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 1401 cases with six 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.