People leaving Capital in drovesHealth experts fear these masses could spread the disease to remote villages untouched by the virus and call for strict monitoring of visitors by communities and local governments.
Season Ghale left the Capital for his home village Barlanchi in Tanahun on Tuesday after a successful completion of his mother’s surgery at Shree Birendra Hospital, Chhauni, but he had to leave his mother behind at his aunt’s house in Gongabu as she required follow-ups with her doctor.
“I am leaving for the village as now there is no one at my home,” said Ghale, the only son of his parents, whom the Post met at Kalanki Bus station on Tuesday.
Ghale’s father, a retired army serviceman, had died at the same hospital last November while undergoing treatment for a fall. He had suffered serious injuries after falling off a cliff back in his village.
At Kalanki, he was wearing a black mask and holding a big storage bag on his right hand in the middle of a crowd of people waiting for buses to their home districts.
Ghale said he left his mother at his aunt’s house because she has a follow-up appointment with the doctor after 10 days.
“My mother had her stomach tumour removed and she needs some rest. I could not take her with me because a 15-day lockdown is starting Thursday and she will miss her follow-up appointment,” said Ghale, a plus two graduate.
On Tuesday, major bus stations including Gongabu, Koteshwar, Balkhu, Kalanki were crowded with people leaving the Valley.
However, doctors and virologists fear this exodus could spread the pandemic to remote villages so far untouched by the virus, if these people are not monitored by the local governments.
“There could be many asymptomatic cases among these crowds and they could take the virus to their home villages, so the local governments and communities must take necessary steps like mandatory quarantining for these people,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief medical officer at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku.
Pun said the situation will be more difficult if the virus spreads to villages as there are no good hospitals or ICU beds. “The new strain of the virus is more contagious and dangerous compared to last year’s,” said Pun.
Back at the New Bus Park at Gongabu, a seemingly worried Suchana Gurung, 29, with a three-year-old daughter in tow, was looking for a bus ticket to Chitwan on Tuesday.
“Kathmandu is becoming a dangerous place and the government has already announced a lockdown from Thursday,” said Gurung, who was leaving for Khairahani Municipality-4, Chitwan.
On Tuesday, Nepal reported 18 Covid-19 related fatalities with 4,364 new cases. The Health Ministry’s data show Kathmandu Valley recorded 1,966 new infections in the past 24 hours. Of them 1,602 cases were confirmed in Kathmandu, 240 in Lalitpur and 124 in Bhaktapur.
“But I'm really scared for my daughter, what if both of us get infected? And I have to take extra precautions as an octogenarian grandmother is at home,” said Gurung.
Ghale echoes Gurung as he had himself spent several days at the army hospital taking care of his mother. “I know people are well aware that the virus is spreading rapidly in Kathmandu, so I must take extra precautions back in my village. I am equally worried about others who are leaving Kathmandu,” said Gurung.
According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, the number of people who left Kathmandu Valley on Monday was 51,000. “On a normal day around 39,000 people would leave the Valley,” said Superintendent of Police Shyam Krishna Adhikari, also the spokesperson for the division.
“By 5 pm on Tuesday 27,780 people left the Valley and an equal number will leave in the evening,” said Adhikari.
Unlike last year, this time the government has given people two days to leave the Capital. Last year, immediately after the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 24, hundreds of people walked for days on foot from Kathmandu to reach their home villages. The division’s last year’s report shows that over 465,972 people left the capital after the government enforced the lockdown.