Transporters and businesses are flouting health safety protocolsPublic vehicles are carrying passengers beyond their seating capacities, business hubs are crowded and restaurants are providing dine-in services.
On Sunday the Valley’s chief district officers announced further easing of Covid-19 restrictions and removed the odd-even number plate rule for public vehicles allowing them to operate from Tuesday by following certain health protocols. More shops and businesses have been allowed to operate albeit on alternate days.
As per the new rule, public transport vehicles should not carry passengers beyond their seating capacities but many public vehicles including buses were carrying more passengers Tuesday. At a time when public health workers have been warning the authorities that the Covid-19 risk is not over yet, all kinds of shops have reopened in breach of the prohibitory orders. Eateries and restaurants, which are allowed to operate takeaway services only, have been allowing dine-in customers for the past few days.
Major business hubs including Ason, Indrachwok, Makhan Galli, New Baneshwar, Old Baneshwar and Koteshwar among others are packed with shoppers and others mostly during the evenings. Likewise, the vegetable shops at Kalimati have been seeing large crowds for the past few days. And in these crowds, social distancing rules are not being observed and many people appear to have done away with the masks.
Also on Tuesday, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City started administering the second dose of the Chinese Vero Cell vaccine to senior citizens aged 60 to 64 years from 12 different hospitals but most of these hospitals were overcrowded with the elderly making long lines with no apparent social distancing.
According to the World Health Organisation, although all age groups are at risk of contracting Covid-19, older people face significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease due to the physiological changes that come with ageing and potential underlying health conditions.
A week ago, when the Lalitpur Metropolitan City gave the second dose of the Covidshield vaccine to its residents aged 75 and above, the elderly people were made to stand for hours with no proper queue management.
Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief of the Clinical Research Unit at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Hospital in Teku says the Kathmandu Valley is still at the risk of virus transmission and such mismanagement may lead to a ‘stressful situation.’
“We have examples of people infected with the Coronavirus while standing in line to get their jabs. If such mismanagement is not addressed those who were safe until now will be infected and that would be misfortune,” said Pun.
On Tuesday, the country reported 1,718 new cases of Covid-19 with 15 deaths and the total infection tally has reached 648,085.
Dr Pun expressed concerns over the crowding at business hubs and the growing disregard among the public for facemasks and social distancing.
Until Monday, when the public vehicles with over 25 seats were allowed to operate on alternate days as per an odd-even-number-plate rule, most of the buses were seen carrying passengers beyond their capacities. Although more public vehicles hit the roads from Tuesday following the removal of the odd-even rule, many buses, micro buses and three-wheelers were found carrying passengers beyond their seating capacities.
When the Post asked Senior Superintendent of Police Janak Bhattarai, the chief at the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, about the violation of the rules by transporters, he said traffic police have been strictly monitoring public transport vehicles. “There might have been some cases of violations, but we will take strict action against anyone found breaching the rules,” said Bhattarai.
“Wednesday onwards we will deploy our staff all across the Valley and beef up inspection of public vehicles,” said Bhattarai. The division office has been deploying 1,400 traffic police in the Valley every day.
The Home Ministry data show that in the past 24 hours, Kathmandu Valley recorded 499 new infections. Of these, 365 cases were confirmed in Kathmandu, 105 in Lalitpur and 29 in Bhaktapur.
According to the Kalimati Fruit and Vegetable Market Development Board, crowding has become unmanageable in the Kalimati area since the easing of the restrictions. “After the Valley’s CDO opened shops, you can’t imagine the crowds at the vegetable and fruit shops at Kalimati from 3am to 5pm, and it’s not possible to manage,” said Binod Kumar Bhattrai, executive director of the Board.
“This is a high risk zone, but we can’t tell traders and shopkeepers not to do their business, which is key to their survival,” said Bhattarai.