People, shops in Valley’s back alleys are violating lockdown rulesVirologists and doctors say lockdown violation could prove costly so the authorities should enforce the restrictions strictly.
Amid record spikes in Covid-19 cases across the country, the chief district officers of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur last Tuesday decided to extend the prohibitory orders in the Kathmandu Valley for another two weeks until May 27.
By that time, the Valley had already been through two weeks of prohibitory orders.
The district administrations of the Kathmandu Valley imposed the restrictions on April 29. On the first day when prohibitory orders were imposed in the Valley, Nepal had logged a total 312,699 cases and 3,211 Covid-19-related fatalities. The active case count stood at 30,209.
And in the third week (until Monday), the country’s Covid-19 tally has reached 464,218 cases with 5,215 deaths, and the number of active cases stands at 113,480.
Initially, the government allowed shops selling daily essentials to operate until 10 in the morning and from 5 to 7 in the evening while the grocery sections at department stores were allowed to operate from 10am to 5pm. Later, the government decided to allow the shops to open only in the mornings, until 9 am. And from last week, the morning shop opening time was extended by an hour, until 10 am.
However, in lack of strict enforcement of the restrictions, many groceries, green grocer shops and even liquor shops among others, especially those in the city’s back alleys, have been operating even during the evenings.
Also many shops in the old quarters of Patan and Kathmandu have been found operating throughout the day. Anyone walking along Mangalbazar in Patan or Kathmandu’s Asan among other places, can see shopkeepers standing in front of their shops with the shutters nearly closed, waiting for customers. They ask the passersby if they want anything.
“Ever since the lockdown was imposed, my son and I have been standing in front of our shop and selling goods,” said Tulshi Gupta, 53, who sells bed linen at Mangalbazar.
“These days, most of the customers visiting my shop want mosquito nets,” said a masked Gupta, who has been operating the shop for the past two decades. Gupta stands in front of her shuttered shop and sells goods from her warehouse in the back alley.
“During normal times, I would sell Rs 20,000 worth of goods a day, but now the sales are down,” she said. According to her, she has to pay Rs 25,000 a month as rent for the shop.
Meanwhile, Jwala Shrestha, 42, who owns a liquor shop at Bakhundole stands in front of his shuttered shop between 4 and 7:30 pm every day. He said his regular customers are aware of his new lockdown schedule.
“They know I will be here for around three hours, so they come to buy beer and wine among other things. Sometimes people make a phone call and tell me what they want. That’s how I am doing business these days” said Shrestha.
He said other liquor shops in the area have been doing the same. According to Shrestha, the demand for alcoholic beverages has gone up during the lockdown, but their supply remains disrupted because liquors are not essential items.
In the city’s inner parts including Sankhamul, Shantinagar and Buddhanagar, it’s not only the shops that operate throughout the day, but people in groups are seen walking freely ignoring the prohibitory orders.
“I had some urgent work and had reached New Baneshwar through lanes and back alleys. On the street at the back of the Parliament building, I saw that many people had come out of their homes and some were playing badminton and football on the street as if there was no virus,” said Abinash Parajuli, 32, a local of Tinkune, Kathmandu.
Virologists and doctors say lockdown violation could prove costly so the authorities should enforce the restrictions strictly.
“Because it would not be practical to place the country under a long lockdown, the authorities should enforce these short lockdowns strictly. Otherwise the virus will get out of control,” warns Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital.
When the Post contacted Kali Prasad Parajuli, the chief district officer of Kathmandu and asked about the ongoing lockdown violations, he said that he would order the police to increase monitoring and act tough on violators.
On Monday, Kathmandu Valley recorded 3,098 new infections in the past 24 hours. Of these, 2,346 cases were confirmed in Kathmandu.
Meanwhile, Lalitpur’s CDO Dhundi Prasad Niraula said anyone violating the prohibitory orders was making a grave mistake and putting many people besides themselves at risk of Covid-19 infection. “Infections and deaths are soaring but people are still acting in an irresponsible manner. This must stop,” said Niraula, who himself is isolating at home with Covid-19.
“I will take up the issue seriously with Lalitpur Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan, and we will book all those lockdown violators including the shopkeepers and punish them as per the law,” he said.
On Monday, 214 people died of the virus with 9,198 new infections across the country, according to the Ministry of Health and Population. Lalitpur district reported 454 new infections in the past 24 hours.