Mayor Shakya plans to build isolation centres, but no one knows whenExperts say isolation centres are urgently needed to prevent the disease from getting transmitted in the community as home isolation is not possible in a densely populated city.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, who also leads the Valley’s mayor forum, announced plans to build integrated isolation centres to accommodate 5,000 people, on August 10.
Nearly two weeks after his announcement, as the number of Covid-19 cases steadily rises in the city, no one knows where the isolation centres will be built and when, though there has been a lot of chatter about it in the news and on social media.
Shakya, even on Tuesday, the day before the three chief district officers of the valley announced restrictions on public mobility, reiterated his plans to build the 5,000-bed-isolation wards by working with the central, federal and the local governments inside the Valley within a week. According to the municipal public health division of the city, as of Thursday 1,411 people have been infected with Covid-19 in the metropolis.
“The mayor announced that the isolation centres will be established nearly two weeks ago, but the plans haven’t materialised yet,” said Shakya’s deputy Hari Prabha Khadgi adding that she doesn’t know the details of the mayor’s plan. “We need the centres now urgently as Covid-19 cases are increasing by the day in our city,” she added.
Mayor Shakya has always been reluctant to establish even quarantine centres in the city. He has been blaming the provincial government for letting people from outside enter into the Valley without restrictions.
However, looking at the present growth in Covid-19 cases in the valley, experts say it’s become necessary to establish the isolation centres soon. Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at the Teku-based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, said that in the absence of isolation centres, the disease will get more pervasive in the community, even when restrictions on mobility are enforced.
The hospital’s data shows that since the local authorities announced the prohibitory order on Thursday, the number of people visiting the hospital with Covid-19 has steadily come down. Before the restrictions came into effect, 300 of the 1,000 people who would visit the hospital would get tested. But after the restrictions, the hospital has been testing only 100 people per day.
“Due to lack of transportation facilities and strict monitoring, very few people are coming to the hospital,” said Pun. He said that prohibitory orders don’t work, unless the contract tracing and testing is done swiftly.
“There is a danger of transmission of the disease within the family as many families share a building in Kathmandu,” said Pun. That’s why separate centres are needed to isolate the infected, he added.
When the Post contacted the city office’s chief executive Ek Narayan Aryal to ask about the integrated isolation centre the mayor has been talking about, he said city officials have been consulting with the federal government and the Cabinet has already approved the plan.
“According to our estimate, around 500 people, including traffic police and Nepal Police personnel, are in home isolation in the city,” Aryal said. He said setting up integrated isolation centres was now possible as the government hiked the money allocated for each isolation bed from Rs 175 to Rs 1,800. “With this amount, we can run the isolation centre at a given standard,” he said.
Aryal however, didn’t know about concrete plans to build the centres, and how much time it will take to do so.