Health experts warn of coronavirus risk as traffic police announce resumption of drink driving testOfficials at the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division say the test will be performed by maintaining a safe distance without breathalyser devices.
After the government's official decision to lift the four-month-long coronavirus lockdown, Metropolitan Traffic Police Division on Wednesday announced that it was resuming the drink driving test.
The announcement has raised concern among health experts who say it is a bad idea to start the test when the cases of coronavirus infection are increasing in Kathmandu Valley.
On Tuesday alone Kathmandu Valley reported nine cases of coronavirus infection. The Valley has so far witnessed 377 cases of Covid-19—253 in Kathmandu, 78 in Lalitpur and 46 Bhaktapur.
“The decision to conduct the drink driving test now will only put the lives of traffic officers and motorists at risk. I hope the traffic authority is taking all the necessary precautions before going ahead with its decision,” Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Kathmandu, said.
The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, however, seems to have no health and safety guidelines in place for conducting the test.
Senior Superintendent of Police Bhim Prasad Dhakal of the division said the test will be performed by maintaining a safe distance without the use of breathalyser devices.
“The traffic officers will observe the behaviour and attitude of motorists and determine if they have been driving while intoxicated. Suspected drivers will be taken to the hospital for toxicology tests,” said Dhakal.
Asked about the risk of coronavirus infection, both on the street and the hospital, the traffic authority had no answers.
Superintendent of Police Bamdev Gautam, spokesperson for the division, said the drink driving test was necessary because the number of people driving while intoxicated had increased.
After the government eased the nationwide lockdown in mid- June, Gautham said the traffic police have so far booked seven people for drink driving offences.
“We maintain zero tolerance towards drink driving. As the traffic police stopped testing for drink driving during the lockdown, we suspect that many people have been driving under the influence of alcohol,” he added.
The traffic authority’s decision to resume drink driving test without amid the coronavirus pandemic has also been derided by the public.
“This decision is plain absurd. The traffic police might see it as a way of ensuring road safety, but they should also consider the current situation,” said Bijay Shrestha, a resident of Tinkune.
“We are dealing with a far bigger and much dangerous problem right now. If anything, their decision has the potential of doing more harm than good.”
Gautam, the spokesperson for the division, contended that the drink driving test was being resumed to prevent road fatalities.
He added that because of the pandemic, the people booked for drink driving won’t have to take the mandatory class on traffic rules and driving safety.
“They will be ticketed and they will be summoned only after the pandemic is over,” said Gautam.