Tenants forced to take corona tests as city deals with rising corona casesDoctors at Teku hospital say out of around 750 people who come for Covid-19 test every day, over 40 percent people come as forced by their landlords.
People living in rented rooms across the city say their landlords, and even local government authorities are illegally forcing them to test for Covid-19 even when they don’t show signs of any illness.
The issue has become so pervasive that 40 percent of the 750 people who visit the Shukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital every day complain of being forced by their landlord to get tested for the disease, said the hospital.
“Many come and literally cry here. The treatment of landlords seems brutal at this difficult time,” said Dr Sagar Raj Bhandari, director at Shukraraj. “They are forcefully sent by landlords who threaten to evict them if they don’t get tested,” said Bhandari.
According to the Ministry of Health, 258 people have been infected with the disease in Nepal so far, and the tally has crossed 10 for the Kathmandu Valley.
“My landlord said that If I didn’t get tested for coronavirus, I could leave the house,” said Dilmaya Sunuwar, 47, who came to the hospital on Friday to get tested. “The doctor gave me a clean-chit after examining my history. I am completely fine,” said Sunuwar, who sells vegetables in Tinkune, Kuleshwor every morning.
As it is not possible to test everyone who comes to the hospital, doctors place them into “red” and “green” depending upon the risk of contracting the virus and their travel history. They then issue a piece of paper to the ones in the “green category” saying they have been screened for the virus, and don’t show any symptoms. For the ones in “red”, doctors conduct a more thorough check.
Like Sunuwar, another woman in her 40s, who didn’t want to disclose her name, said she came for the test after her house owner didn't let her enter her room without a test result.
Lawyers say that it is illegal for landlords to threaten their tenants and force them to get tested. Senior advocate Om Prakash Aryal said, “If tenants are mistreated, they can file a complaint at the nearest police office,” said Aryal.
The Criminal Code (Act) 2074’s section 166 states that anyone who obstructs a person from using private and public property, and discriminates against anyone, shall be liable to upto three years in imprisonment or a fine of Rs 30,000 or both.
“Obstructing tenants from entering their house just because they were out of the valley is against the law,” said Aryal.
It’s not just the landlords, various local bodies in Kathmandu Valley are also turning hostile towards tenants. Kirtipur Municipality on Thursday released a notice to residents not to rent rooms to “new people”. It has also sealed off all its alleys.
The targeting of tenants by landlords and local government officials only add stressors to people who have been affected by the economic slump triggered by the Covid-19 lockdown. Dr Basu Dev Karki, senior consultant psychiatrist at Patan Mental Hospital said, “Anyone can contract the virus. The tenants are unfairly being targeted in the name of the virus,” said Karki. He also said that it was time authorities took measures to educate the community about the disease and stop the targeting of certain groups.
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.