Disregarding Covid-19 risk, hundreds of maskless youths celebrate Holi in KathmanduHealth experts fear the revelry could become a ‘super-spreading’ event leading to another coronavirus crisis.
Despite the government ban on public gatherings to stem the spread of coronavirus, streets of Kathmandu were filled with people to celebrate the Holi festival on Sunday.
The Ministry of Health and Population last week had issued a notice asking people to avoid large gatherings and strictly follow health and safety protocols following an unprecedented increase in Covid-19 cases in neighbouring India.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had also asked the public not to organise gatherings and warned of action against those who flout the Covid-19 rules.
But disregarding the government warning and the threat of coronavirus, young people were seen revelling on the streets of Kathmandu, many of them without masks.
Places like New Road, Basantapur, Thamel, New Baneshwor, Koteshwor, Chabahel and Lagankhel were teeming with people. They were smearing colours and splashing water at one another with a reckless abandon.
“We stayed indoors last year because of the pandemic. Now I have realised that Covid-19 is nothing. So I am out with my friends,” said Sumi Phuyal, a 25-year-old Holi reveller who was celebrating with her friends.
“Nobody can stop us from celebrating our festival.”
Asmita Dhakal was out celebrating Holi with her friends at Basantapur because she felt that she should not miss out on the fun and festivity that was taking place after such a long time.
“The smog in Kathmandu for the past two days has made the city dull and sombre. So celebrating the festival of colours is a way to elevate the mood,” said the 26-year-old, whose white shirt was splotched and smeared with colours.
“Nobody is worried about Covid here. Everyone is rejoicing in the festive mood.”
The road stretch between New Road to Basantapur was full of Holi celebrators on Sunday.
Sobita Magar, who was selling Holi T-shirts and colours at the scene, observed that the crowd this year was at least ten times bigger this time.
“Last Holi, I earned Rs5,000 selling T-shirts and colours. I have already earned
Rs15,000 today,” beamed maskless Magar.
Security personnel deployed on the streets could do little to control the crowd.
“The crowd was much smaller earlier in the day. We thought that was it, but the number of people continued to grow by afternoon. It was uncontrollable,” said a police constable deployed at New Road, who did not give his name.
Ayush Nepali, who has come to Kathmandu from Pokhara for an official work, was shocked to see large crowds of people on the streets.
“The government said no gatherings but people have come out by their hundreds. It seems that the Covid-19 rules are just limited to paper,”he said.
Health experts too were exasperated by the cavalier attitude taken by the young people of Kathmandu at a time when Covid-19 cases have been rising and the government has expressly advised against holding gatherings and following mask and social distancing rules.
“This could be one of those “super-spreading” event. This is a cause for a serious concern,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital.
“People were not wearing masks and there is a chance of an asymptomatic person spreading the virus to many people.”
When the Post contacted Chief District Officer of Kathmandu Kali Prasad Parajuli and asked him why the authorities allowed such larger crowds to gather at Basantapur and elsewhere in the city, he said he was unaware about the event.
“I had strongly directed the security agencies to monitor the public mobility.At Basantapur people from the Newar and Marwadi communities have special rituals on Holi, so we allowed them to perform those rituals. The other Holi revellers might have joined in later,” said Parajuli.