Local units unprepared to manage people returning home for festive seasonLocals are worried about the possible outbreak of Covid-19, as authorities do not conduct PCR tests on those returning home for Dashain and Tihar.
A 23-year-old man returned to his home in Jayaprithvi Municipality Ward No 3, Bajhang, from Kathmandu on Monday. Though he did not show any symptoms of Covid-19, his family kept him in home quarantine and urged the local unit to conduct his Polymerase Chain Reaction test. The Kathmandu returnee tested positive for the virus on Friday.
“As per the existing health guidelines of the government, the local unit only conducts the PCR test of those entering the district from India,” said Ramchandra Joshi, the public health inspector of Jayaprithvi Municipality. “However, the suspect’s family members requested us so we conducted his PCR test. He tested positive.”
With Dashain and Tihar—two major Hindu festivals—round the corner, Bajhang is seeing an influx of people returning from Kathmandu and other districts for the festive season. But the local units in the district are not prepared to deal with the possible outbreak of Covid-19 from the returnees.
“We have been keeping people returning from India in quarantine facilities for two weeks before sending them home with their PRC test results. We just request the returnees from Kathmandu and other districts to stay put in their houses,” said Juna Jagri, the deputy mayor of Jayaprithvi Municipality. “The number of people returning from Kathmandu has increased significantly in recent days. The risk of an outbreak is high now. It would be easier for the local unit if the returnees stayed in home quarantine.”
Like Jayaprithvi, all 12 local bodies in Bajhang only keep the people returning from India in quarantine facilities. According to the District Administration Office, a total of 157 people are staying in several quarantine facilities in the district at present. All of them are returnees from India.
The District Administration Office and the District Police Office in Bajhang do not even have the record of people who have entered the district from Kathmandu and other districts.
According to Jiban Khadka, the ticket counter in-charge of Sudurpaschim Transportation Company, around 300 people have been entering Bajhang from several districts on a daily basis via road transport.
“The number is set to keep on increasing till Dashain,” he said.
Meanwhile, the local people have raised questions regarding the management of returnees. They criticised the local body for keeping only India returnees in quarantine while completely ignoring those returning from Kathmandu and other districts.
“Is coronavirus found in people returning from India only? The risk of Covid-19 is very high, as a large number of people are returning from Kathmandu and other districts,” said Prabindra Dhami, a local of Jayaprithi Municipality. “It would be a waste of budget spent to set up quarantine facilities if the local units fail to manage people returning from within the country.”
Health officials in the district are also concerned about the influx of people during the festival season.
“People returning from Kathmandu, a hotspot of coronavirus in the country, are sent home without conducting their PCR tests. It will certainly increase the risk of an outbreak in the community,” said Narayan Joshi, the corona focal person at the District Health Office in Bajhang. He suggested that PCR test should be conducted on all people entering the district during Dashain and Tihar.
According to Joshi, there are 38 active cases of coronavirus in the district currently.
Chief District Officer Kamalraj Bhandari, who is also the chairman of the District Corona Crisis Management committee, admitted that the risk of Covid-19 outbreak is high with the arrival of a large number of people for the festive season.
“The risk has multiplied with the arrival of people returning home, mainly from Kathmandu. The committee’s meeting scheduled for Monday will discuss ways to manage the influx of people,” said Bhandari.
Though the number of people entering the district is on the rise lately, the local units have not collected swab samples as per the capacity of the PCR laboratory in the district.
“We can easily conduct the PCR tests of 500 swab samples per day. We can conduct upto 1,000 tests, if needed,” said Dr Milan Khadka, the corona focal person at Bajhang District Hospital. “But we receive only around 30 swabs a day from the local units these days.”