As virus spreads, city to focus on contact tracingAs many families live in the same house in Kathmandu, the risk of transmission from one household to another is high, officials say.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City has been coordinating with the federal government in the fight against Covid-19 due to the high infection caseload in the city compared to other parts of Kathmandu Valley.
The city officials said the KMC has only been focusing on contact tracing work while the federal government has been handling the jobs of managing and treating the infected patients.
“The city office has only been mobilising teams for contact tracing comprising ward representatives and health workers. Management and treatment of Covid-19 patients are being done by the federal government,” said Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for KMC.
According to the Public Health Department of KMC, 3,277 people in Kathmandu had tested positive for the coronavirus infection as of Thursday. Of them, 935 are living in home isolation and 840 symptomatic patients are undergoing treatment in various hospitals. Twenty people had died of Covid-19 in Kathmandu as of Thursday.
The department data show that only 1,411 people had tested positive for the coronavirus infection in Kathmandu until the day after the three district administration offices in Kathmandu Valley enforced prohibitory orders starting August 20.
In the past two weeks, an additional 1,866 people in Kathmandu have tested positive for the virus.
Dr. Basudev Pandey, director at the chief of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, suspects that the virus has now entered the community transmission stage in Kathmandu.
“That is the reason for the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Kathmandu. One single house hosts over a dozen families so there is a high chance of the infection spreading from one family to the next,” said Pandey. “Besides, increased testing has also led to high infection numbers.”
The city till date has carried out a PCR test of 6,444 people. Health experts, however, say that the test numbers are not adequate, as Kathmandu City alone has a population of over 2 million, and all the 32 wards of the city have reported the coronavirus cases.
Infection numbers in Kathmandu Valley started surging by leaps and bounds ever since the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was lifted after four months on July 21.
Pandey said the number of cases began multiplying after the people from various coronavirus hotspots in the Tarai as well as India started entering the Valley post-lockdown.
Although public health experts had warned that the coronavirus cases could increase in the Valley, the authorities concerned did not place any measures to deal with a possible public health crisis.
Mayor Shakya had drawn flaks, including from his own deputy Hari Prabha Khadgi, for not setting up quarantine and isolation centers to manage and treat the coronavirus patients. The mayor had responded to the criticism by blaming the federal government for allowing people to enter the Valley from various coronavirus hotspots.
Following intense pressure from the public, Shakya, who also chairs the Kathmandu Valley Mayors’ Forum, on August 10 announced that he would build integrated isolation centers to accommodate 5,000 people. There is no sign of the promised integrated isolation centres till date.
“It is the duty of the mayor to take that initiative to save the people who voted for him. He cannot shirk his responsibility by passing the buck on the government,” said Deputy Mayor Khadgi.
Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, said unless testing and contact tracing are ramped up the infection rate in Kathmandu was not going to decline.
“There should be widespread testing during the restrictions period. Meanwhile, the public should also do their part by staying at home, observing social distancing, wearing masks while going out and washing their hands,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gyan Bahadur Oli, the Covid-19 focal person at KMC, said the city office was having trouble finding the contacts of infected people because many people are reluctant to reveal their identities due to the fear of social stigmation.
“We have over 350 people whose tests have come positive but we could not locate them as they had given the wrong personal details. They could be infecting other people,” said Oli.
Dangol, the KMC spokesperson, said the city was working hard by mobilising volunteers, public health officers and ward representatives to contain the coronavirus infection.
“We plan to set up an integrated isolation center within this week. Very soon, even asymptomatic patients won’t have to observe home isolation and they will receive proper medical attention,” said Dangol.