Health officials warn decision to allow shops to open till 11am could backfireTraffic police booked 600 motorists for violating prohibitory orders while hundreds of people descended on the street of Pulchowk for chariot-pulling festival on Thursday.
The three district administration offices of Kathmandu Valley on Wednesday extended the prohibitory orders by a week while also deciding to allow shops to open till 11 am.
Before this, shops selling food and other essential items were allowed to open only till 9 am.
The decision to widen the time frame was made considering the convenience of the public. However, some health experts have warned that this move could backfire as the coroanvirus cases in Kathmandu Valley have shown no signs of ebbing, even after the prohibitory orders were issued two weeks ago.
The Valley has been witnessing record spikes in the coronavirus cases in recent days and allowing people more time to be out in the public could undermine the efforts to lower the infection numbers, health officials warn.
“We are in a very difficult situation. It is also the responsibility of the people to bring down the infection rate by staying at their homes. They should stay at home to help the concerned authorities to minimise the public mobility so the virus does not spread,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, virologist at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital.
On Thursday morning, the Valley police had a difficult time managing the people who were out of their homes.
Superintendent of Police Rameshwor Yadav, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, said many people had come outside on the streets and neighbourhood alleys without valid reasons.
“People were out on their cars and motorcycles. When stopped and inquired about their purpose of being out, they would casually say that they were going to buy milk, to buy vegetables, or to meet their sick relatives at the hospital,” Yadav told the Post.
“It was hard for the traffic officers to restrict their movement. Till 11 am, at least 600 motorists were booked. Allowing shops to open till 11am does not mean that the restrictions are also removed for vehicles.”
The government’s data show that 7,038 people have been infected with the coronavirus in the three districts of Kathmandu Valley— 5,622 in Kathmandu, 817 in Lalitpur and 599 in Bhaktapur—while 43 people have lost their lives till date.
On Thursday, the country saw the highest single-day surge of the coronavirus cases with 1,228 new infections.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population, the total number of Covid-19 cases has readed 42,877 with 257 Covid-19 related fatalities.
While the Valley authorities have issued prohibitory orders in a bid to lower the infection rates, a large number of people descended on the street of Pulchowk in Lalitpur on Thursday for the Rato Machhindranath chariot-pulling festival.
When police intervened, the revellers clashed with the security personnel.
Dr Pun and several other health experts have long been warning the government and the public to avoid large gatherings.
“Kathmandu Valley was safe just two months ago and now it is turning into a Covid-19 hotspot. If we carry on this way, we will have more difficult times ahead,” said Pun.