Officials trade blame as virus spreads in CapitalMayor Shakya passes the buck to central authorities, who say local governments need to act more responsibly to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Last Saturday, after five members of a family that owns a business in Mahaboudha in central Kathmandu tested positive for Covid-19, it was revealed that a 24-year-old member had returned to Kathmandu three weeks ago from India.
On Wednesday another shop owner, a 35 -year-old-man from the same locality was diagnosed with Covid-19. On Friday his wife, 31, was also found to have been infected.
However, members of the public continue to throng the neighbourhood, one of most crowded business hubs in the city. It’s even impossible for people to walk in the inner alleys without touching another person. The situation in Mahaboudha has worried many people about their own safety, but authorities are blaming one another instead of trying to address the looming threat.
Although the number of Covid-19 cases has increased at an alarming rate in the capital, there seems to be a huge gap in coordination between the metropolitan city and the federal and central governments.
As of Saturday afternoon 420 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Kathmandu district alone. The number of positive cases in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur are 95 and 57 respectively.
“These days, we aren’t doing anything ,” said Chinayaman Bajracharya, chairman of Ward No. 27, which also includes Mahaboudha. “When the first case was diagnosed on Saturday, we had asked the district administration office to seal off this area, but they said they were holding a meeting on the matter,” said Bajracharya.
“But it’s been a week now. Nothing has been done. We see crowds gather all the time here.”
The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division on Tuesday collected 302 samples from Mahaboudha area with the help of the Urban Health Division of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City and only one case of Covid-19 came on Friday. However, Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, virologist at the Sukraraj Hospital, Teku, doubts that everyone who has come into contact with the infected was tested for the virus.
If a person is found infected in an area that sees huge crowds, it is difficult to trace people who might have come into contact with the infected, he said. “The area might trigger a community-level transmission of Covid-19 as many people don’t wear masks and it’s Valley’s most crowded place.”
Kathmandu Metropolitan City doesn’t have a single quarantine centre, nor is it prepared to deal with a possible community-level transmission of the disease.
Commenting on the negligence on the part of both the local and central governments, virologist Pun said the risk of a community transmission was ever increasing. “That new cases of Covid-19 are being reported in crowded neighbourhoods such as Mahaboudha is obviously not a good sign,” said Pun. In addition to that, 72 personnel at Nepal Police Headquarters in Kathmandu have been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Dr Basudev Panday, director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division blames the local government for not taking the right steps. “We had a meeting with the Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, he was reluctant to operate quarantine centres—the only way to stop infected people from spreading Covid-19,” said Panday.
“Those who enter Kathmandu must be kept in quarantine, they should not be allowed to go home,” said Panday. According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, every day over 5,000 people are entering the Valley from different routes.
The division said that of the 118 Covid-19 cases reported in Kathmandu between July 24-29 36 were detected from those coming into Kathmandu from outside.
Mayor Shakya, meanwhile, blames the central and provincial governments for the situation.
“The federal and central governments are allowing hundreds of people from different infected areas to enter Kathmandu. How can we locate them and place them in quarantine?” asked Shakya. When asked why the city doesn’t have a single quarantine center, Shakya said the city has told those who need to be quarantined to stay home.
After a surge in Covid-19 cases in the Valley, the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to ban the entry of vehicles into the Kathmandu Valley between 7pm to 7am last week,
Mayor Shakya also alleged that people from India and different parts of the Terai were entering the city on ambulances, and other vehicles and bringing Covid-19 with them. “The central government should have made a provision of checking the health condition of infected persons from the district where they came from, but it’s allowing everyone to enter,” said Shakya.
“The ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health should have done better.”