Flimsy huts set up in lieu of holding centre in Gaddachauki border pointKanchanpur authorities are yet to set up a holding centre for people returning from India.
Until last week, Gaddachauki border point along the Nepal-India border in Kanchanpur saw around 700 to 800 Nepalis return home on a daily basis. Since there were no provisions made for quarantining these individuals, most made their way home directly from the border point, raising concerns of widespread Covid-19 infections in rural villages.
Although the number of people entering Nepal through the border point has dropped down to a little more than 200 a day, the risk of community transmission of the virus remains large for a lack of proper testing and tracing of returnees.
The authorities concerned in Kanchanpur are yet to set up a holding centre for people returning from India.
The Sudurpaschim government had planned to set up holding facilities for returnees and conduct their health check-ups before sending them to their respective villages. However, the provincial government’s plan on paper has translated to flimsy tents held up by bamboo poles with no provisions of health check-ups for returnees as promised.
The poorly built holding centre does not even have beds and other necessary facilities.
“A temporary shelter has been built using tents. There are no beds or any other infrastructure required to provide even basic health services to returnees,” said Aakash Barudi, the in-charge of a health desk established at Gaddachauki. “There should be beds with ventilators and oxygen supply for the treatment of Covid-19 patients and a separate unit for those who test positive for the virus at the border point.”
According to the district administration in Kanchanpur, the provincial government is yet to release the budget for the installation of a proper holding centre at the border point.
The temporary holding centre has been set up with the financial support of Bhimdatta Municipality and a social organisation.
“A permanent holding centre will be constructed once the provincial government issues a budget for it,” said Chief District Officer Ram Kumar Mahato.
Security personnel from the Nepal Army and health workers have been deployed to the no-man’s land to collect details of the returnees and conduct their health check ups. “We hope to manage beds and other infrastructure for the holding centre soon,” said Narendra Raj Joshi, health unit chief of Bhimdatta Municipality.
Of the 225 people who entered Nepal through Gaddachauki on Sunday, antigen tests were conducted on 170, out of whom 12 tested positive for Covid-19.
A meeting of the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre held on April 30 decided to shut all but 13 border points with India and set up holding centres at the entry points. Gaddachauki is among the 13 border points that are still open.
Until a few days ago, the authorities were conducting antigen tests on only the residents of Kanchanpur entering from the border point due to a shortage of antigen kits. Of late, antigen tests are being conducted on all returnees except those who have done PCR tests before entering Nepal, according to workers at the health desk.
Citing the situation at the border point as unmanaged, Barudi, the in-charge of a health desk, said, “It would be easier and effective to collect details of the returnees, check their health and send them to their destination from a single designated place. But the details of the entrants are collected from one place while the health test and the management to send them home are conducted in other places for a lack of a proper holding centre. This has created a lot of hassle for both the workers and returnees.”