Concerns over quarantine centre in Bhaktapur stem from lack of trust in governmentThe government has failed to communicate to the public properly about the new strain of virus and risk factors, causing panic among people, health experts say.
Gyan Bahadur KC, chairman of Changunarayan Municipality of Bhaktapur Ward No. 7, is enraged and concerned, just like other residents of his ward and those in Ward No. 6. Their worry stems from the government plan to quarantine Nepalis to be evacuated from Hubei Province of China, the epicentre of the new strain of coronavirus, at the training centres of Nepal Electricity Authority and Drinking Water Corporation.
According to KC, residents are anxious about putting those Nepali nationals in quarantine in their locality.
KC has extended moral support to the protests launched by locals against the government plan to convert the two training centres into quarantine facilities, terming their concerns over the possible spread of the virus as genuine.
“I would like to draw the attention of political leaders to the unanimous decision of the municipality’s executive council meeting to stop keeping people rescued from China in our locality,” he said. “How can I assure locals that they are safe and nothing will happen? I am not sure myself if it will be safe to be in the same locality with people rescued from a region hit by the deadly virus.”
The new strain of coronavirus, now dubbed covid-19, has killed at least 1,350 died and over 60,000 infected in China.
The government is planning to send a plane to Wuhan on Saturday to bring back the Nepalis stuck in China. Once back in Nepal, all of them have to stay in quarantine, at least for 17 days.
“Out of fear of a disease outbreak, people from our areas have started moving to safe places,” said KC.
Health experts say Bhaktapur locals’ concern shows people have little trust in the government that it will be able to handle the situation in the event of an outbreak.
Despite announcing to bring back Nepalis from China, the government’s preparations have been sluggish, just as those stranded in Hubei constantly called for evacuating them at the earliest. It took weeks for the government to finalise the location for quarantining them once they are brought back. Doctors say hospitals lack proper isolation facilities and intensive care units if the health condition of evacuees deteriorates.
Even though the death toll and infections have continued to rise, in Nepal there has been only one confirmed case so far.
So the fear among the general public is largely because of lack of information, say health experts.
“The government has failed to disseminate information on the risk factors,” said Dr Baburam Marasini, a former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division. “The government has neither communicated with people properly nor has done substantial preparations for risk management.”
Prakash Lamichhane, a local of Bageshwori, said people are worried about the spread of the disease, as they hardly know what the government has done to curb the spread of the virus since the outbreak in China.
“What we know is based on what we see on television and there are so many people dying,” Lamichhane told the Post over the phone. “We cannot rely on the government’s preparations.”
Locals of Ward Nos. 6 and 7 of the municipality have even staged protests to stop the government from keeping the evacuees from China in quarantine in their locality.
According to health experts, the recent coronavirus outbreak has once again exposed the country’s fragile health care system. It’s not only about how the country can deal with the situation in the event of a coronavirus outbreak, but Nepal also is not prepared at all to deal with any health emergencies, they say.
Dr GD Thakur, also a former director at Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, said people by and large do not believe that the government is for them and when it comes to healthcare, they simply don’t trust the government.
For years, Nepali politicians have paid little attention to the country’s poor healthcare system. A majority of the leaders fly abroad for treatment when they are sick, largely oblivious of the sufferings of the general public.
People who are visiting government hospitals in the country even for serious illnesses are those without any other option, health experts say.
“People have lost faith in the government system,” said Thakur. “As far as the recent coronavirus outbreak in China is concerned, the government should have set up facilities long ago, as it knows over 1,000 could be returning from China, apart from those 180 from Hubei who have officially signed up expressing their desire to return.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of April 8, 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. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had spread to 209 countries and infected more than 1,431,706 people with 82,080 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,351 with 160 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 4,035 confirmed cases with 57 deaths. Nepal has so far reported nine cases, in which one patient recovered.
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.