Over two dozen Kathmandu city officials in self-isolationOfficials say the absence of senior officials has hindered the city’s effective response to the pandemic.
After Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya tested positive for Covid-19 positive on Monday, over two dozen key city officials, including half a dozen ward officers, in close contact with Shakya have isolated themselves at home.
With the officials staying home, the response of the city, most affected by the pandemic in the Valley, has been affected as the remaining officials don’t have the authority to make decisions, even during emergencies..
After the mayor tested positive for Covid-19, Chief Executive Ek Naraya Aryal, Joint Secretary Rajeshwor Gyawali, administration chief Nwaraj Dhakal, the mayor’s personal secretary Rajeshowr Stapit, and Spokesperson Ishwor Man Dangol, among others others have been staying home.
“This is a great misfortune for the city. The number of Covid-19 cases is sharply increasing, but those who need to be out there making quick decisions are at home,” said a city official on the condition of anonymity.
He further said the city is yet to allocate funds for relief and rescue measures. “Mayor Shakya is also the coordinator of the city’s Disaster Management Committee. There’s a dire need to distribute relief materials to people as many of the poor have nothing to eat and cases in most of the wards are increasing,” said the official.
Deputy Mayor Hari Prabha Khadgi, who has been coming to work, said Mayor Shakya has not delegated any responsibilities to her even as he isolates himself at home. “ I called him on Wednesday morning, and told him to hand over some responsibilities to me,” said Khadgi. “But he said he will carry out all of his work from home. He needs to stay in isolation for two weeks and people are dying already. How will he work from home?” questioned Khadgi, the only top official not in self- isolation.
According to the Public Health Division of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, 2,707 have tested positive for Covid-19 and 19 have died of ailments related to the infection, as of August 30.
“We are yet to get data for the last three days. But the situation is getting worse,” said Gyan Bahadur Oli, the Covid-19 focal person at the municipal health department. The city has tested 4,325 people so far.
“I myself am in self isolation as I was in close contact with Mayor Shakya,” Chief Executive Aryal told the Post on the phone. Asked about the fate of the 5,000-bed integrated isolation centers the mayor promised three weeks ago, Aryal said he didn't know about it.
“All political decisions have to be made by the mayor. I am only authorised to carry out administrative work, and I am doing that from home,” Aryal added.
Last week, Shakya, who is also the coordinator of the Valley Mayors’ Forum—a grouping of mayors in the Valley, held a meeting with Minister for Health Bhaubhakta Dhakal, Health Secretary Laxam Aryal, Lalitpur Mayor Chiribabu Maharjan and Madhyapur Thimi Mayor Madan Sundar Shrestha to discuss the proposed integrated isolation centre. But after Mayor Shakya contracted the infection, the discussions have beens stalled, with participants of the meeting isolating themselves at home or getting tested.
With sharp increments in Covid-19 cases in the city, virologists say that the disease has already spread at the community level.
“It seems that the disease is being transmitted from one family to another. The impacts of the two weeks of restrictions are yet to be seen, but the local and federal government should work with better plans to halt this rapid transmission,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at Teku based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital.
Chief Executive Aryal also said the integrated isolation centre had become a necessity for the city, but as its construction to be expedited by the political leadership of the city, he can’t do anything about it. “Because in our city, a single house is home to over 50 people living in different rooms, if one family gets infected, others also catch the disease. If only we could prepare an isolation centre, we could stop the rapid transmission,” said Aryal.
When the Post contacted Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for the city also in home isolation, to ask about the mayor, he said that Shakya was in good health. “He is doing all tasks through his phone, and doesn’t have any health-related issues,” said Dangol.