Kathmandu’s ward chiefs find themselves in eye of Covid stormKathmandu Valley has reported over 1,000 positive cases of coronavirus, and local residents are turning to their elected representatives for help.
Although local and federal government offices are shut on Saturdays, Chiniya Man Bajracharya,65, chairperson of Ward No. 27 of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, spent the whole day assuring residents of his ward that everything will be fine soon.
“My voice has become hoarse. Everyone is scared here,” said Bajrachary, whose area of jurisdiction includes one of the most crowded neighborhoods in the city such as Mahaboudha, Bhotahity and Ason.
A total of 11 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the ward—two on Friday alone.
This is not the only ward in Kathmandu that’s going through the ordeal, nor is Bajracharya the lone ward chairperson providing support to local residents. “All 32 wards in the have reported Covid-19 cases,” said Gyan Bahadur Oli, Covid-19 focal person for the city’s Public Health Department.
Most residents of the city turn to their representatives to ask questions on the pandemic and when then can be tested, said chairs of various wards the Post talked to. Of the 32 wards, 11 have more cases than others. “The wards with the most number of cases are Ward No.1 ( Naxal Police Headquarter), Ward No.3 (Basbari, Gangalal Hospital area), Ward No.5 (Baluwatar), Ward No.10 ( Baneshwor), Ward No.12 (Teku), Ward No.16 (Balaju -Banasthali), Ward No. 21 (Lagan-Bhotahity), Ward No.22 (New Road), Ward No.27 (Mahaboudha) , Ward No.28 (Bagbazaar), and Ward No.32 (Koteshwor),” said Oli.
Bajracharya said most of the hospital beds in the city are filled with patients. “I myself am perplexed about what to say to the residents of my ward,” said Bajracharya. He is equally worried about sending people to the hospital to get tested as they risk contracting the infection there.
“The situation is getting worse in Kathmandu. If something isn’t done about it, it is going to spiral out of control,” said Narendra Bilash Bajracharya, chief of the Public Health Department. He said the metropolis alone can’t do anything in such a situation.
“The central government must make policy, it should not be too late,” said Bajracharya.
Meanwhile, Hiralal Tandukar, chair of Ward No.11, also finds himself in a situation similar to his colleague from Ward No. 27. Ever since two cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed at the Tripureshwor-based Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, the ward office in the same locality has also been sealed off since Wednesday. The ward office staff and traffic police station shared the same canteen.
“In the past few days, many people have called me to ask how they can get tested for do Covid-19, and many are worried,” said Tundukar. He said the ward office is unable to test its citizens. “If people are tested here, I am sure many Covid-19 positive cases will emerge,” he added. Tandukar said he has been consulting with the central office for the safety of its citizens.
Chinikaji Maharjan, chair of Ward No.22 is equally worried. “We have sealed off New Road from Friday after three cases of Covid-19 were reported there,” said Maharjan.
Similarly, after eight infections of Covid-19 were reported in Gahanapokhari, Hadigaun, the area (Ward No.5) has been sealed from Saturday.
In Ward N0.3 chair Deepak KC said, some cases of Covid-19 have even been reported from Gangalal hospital. “We are still carrying out contact tracing, but the members of the public are living in fear here,” said KC. “People are afraid, but I have been telling them to remain calm,” said KC.
Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist who is also chief of the clinical research unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku, sees a clear-cut indicator of Covid-19 reaching community level transmission in the metropolis—a big worry for the ward chairs.
“Now the government should expand its testing mechanism, and seal infected places to take samples,” said Pun.
Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, however, doesn’t accept that the city is witnessing community transmission. “Each and every individual should be extra careful. Now it's the members of the public who can save themselves,” said Shakya.
He blamed the central and federal government for opening entry points to the city. “Until the lockdown was imposed in the country, Kathmandu was safe, but letting people enter the valley was a grave mistake,” said Shakya. He said vegetable and fruit sellers who recently came from India and the Tarai part are responsible for the transmission of the disease in the Valley.
The sharp growth of Covid-19 cases in Kathmandu city has scared its neighbouring cities of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. Lalitpur Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan and his Bhaktapur counterpart Sunil Prajapati have expressed concern over the situation in Kathmandu.
As of Saturday, Kathmandu Valley has reported 1,040 cases of Covid-19—821 in Kathmandu, 136 in Lalitpur and 83 in Bhaktapur.
“The situation is not as severe in Lalitpur, but as we are close to Kathmandu, Lalitpur is also at risk of Covid-19 transmission,” said Maharjan. He said the metropolitan city is going to convene a meeting of its board on Sunday to take stock of the situation.
Bhaktapur’s Mayor Prajapati said he was also worried. “We have postponed many jatras as Covid-19 cases are gradually increasing in Bhaktapur as well, we are consulting with the Bhaktapur district administration on stopping the entry of people from Kathmandu into the city,” said Prajapati.
Meanwhile, ward chief Bajracharya expects his workdays to get even longer in the days to come. “I don’t know how many phone calls I‘ve responded to today, and how many I’ll have to respond to tomorrow.”