Mayor Shakya under fire for his lack of initiative to contain coronavirus spreadKathmandu ward officials say the mayor has been holding high level meetings but has little to show for when it comes to the prevention of Covid-19 on the ground.
On August 10, Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya, who also chairs the Valley’s mayor forum, announced plans to build integrated isolation centers to accommodate 5,0000 people.
Two weeks after the announcement, none of the ward representatives in the city know where the integrated isolation center is going to be established.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases in Kathmandu Valley is increasing rapidly.
The Valley on Friday recorded the daily highest number of coronavirus cases at 415, of which 350 were detected in Kathmandu alone.
Unable to cope with the situation, ward officials in Kathmandu have directed their frustration towards Shakya. They have accused the mayor of holding high level meetings and doing nothing substantial on the ground to avert the coming crisis.
“The city is fast turning into a coronavirus hotspot, but mayor Shakya has not even met us to inquire about the situation of the ward,” said Nilkaji Shakya, ward chairperson of Kathmandu-25. “The mayor is having meetings with other mayors of the Valley but he is ignoring the ward representatives.”
Setting up isolation centres in Kathmandu is crucial to managing and treating Covid-19 patients, as all hospitals treating Covid-19 patients are full. Ward representatives of Kathmandu say keeping infected people in home isolation is not safe, as many people live in small rooms and apartments with shared bathrooms.
Health officials say the higher level officials should consult with ward level officials to minimise the coronavirus spread.
“Not consulting with local level officials is the main problem. We only see ministers, secretary level officials in the Covid-19 meetings who know nothing about the ground reality,” Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, virologist, also chief of the Clinical Research Unit at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital. “During this suition, ward representatives are the ones who have closely seen the suition in their areas.”
Sobha Sapkota, a ward representative of Kathmandu-14, said her ward is one of the most affected areas with more than 100 coronavirus cases, but the mayor’s office has so far made no effort whatsoever to contain the virus spread.
“Each ward has its own set of problems concerning the coronavirus spread and management and treatment of the infected people. But our leadership is busy holding meetings after meetings with no work to show at the ground level,” said Sapkota.
She said at least 300 people need to be tested in her ward, but only 100 have been tested till date.
Four wards of Kathmandu currently have over 100 active Covid-19 cases.
Gyan Bahadur Oli, focal person for Covid-19 at the Public Health Division of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, said the city office does not have the data on infection numbers from all the wards.
“We have been witnessing more than 100 daily cases in recent days. So there might be other wards with cases above 100,” said Oli, who admitted that the situation is bleak for Kathmandu.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 20, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 30,683,828 people with 955,841 deaths and 22,038,587 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,308,041 with 85,619 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 305,031 confirmed cases with 6,415 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 64,122 cases with 411 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.