Kathmandu, May 4 : On April 25, when Pravesh’s wife, a nurse, tested positive for the coronavirus, he went to get tested. Unsurprisingly, he too was found to be COVID-19 positive.
The newlywed couple had contracted the virus while returning from their trip to Pokhara. As their health condition was stable, they opted for home isolation.
“Only the couple stayed at the rented flat. They had informed us about their COVID-19 positive status. However, when I called Pravesh around four days later, he notified that they returned to his hometown in Morang by a flight,” said Aditya, Pravesh’s next-door neighbour.
The duo left for Morang unhindered because there has been no provision of showing a COVID-19 negative report to travel via airways or roadways across the country.
It has been learnt that like the couple, there are many such individuals travelling freely.
When The Rising Nepal enquired six others through social media and phone calls, three informed that they knew someone who had left the Valley by public transport despite testing positive for the virus.
“I was planning to return home as cases were rising in the Valley. Since one of my friends, who used to live in Tokha and who was a neighbour back home, had tested positive for the virus, I decided to inform him about my departure. However, I found that he had reached home the previous night by a bus,” said Santosh, a permanent resident of Butwal living in Sankhamul.
According to Aditya and Santosh, when they asked their friends about their negligence, they argued that they had boarded the flight and bus fully complying with health safety measures.
Nevertheless, health experts argued that a COVID-19 positive individual travelling on a means of public transportation poses high risk of spreading the virus and that the use of thermal gun alone was not a proper way out.
“It is not necessary that everyone suffering from COVID-19 should have high fever, so thermal guns are not enough to identify suspicious individuals. Similarly, there are many people in home isolation but in absence of surveillance, they have been flouting the safety measures,” said Dr. Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital. The COVID-19 situation report by the Ministry of Health and Population on Sunday showed that among the 48,711 active cases, 45,181 are in home isolation.
“Those in home isolation are neither under proper care nor under authorities’ surveillance. They call authorities once their health worsens but defy the protocols secretly. This loop hole must be plugged,” said Dr. Pun.
When the health ministry officials questioned about the surveillance over individuals in home isolation, they replied that the local levels were entrusted with that responsibility.
“The local levels are tasked with keeping an eye on COVID-19 positive individuals in home isolation. The local levels should be aware of their health condition and ensure they stay indoors,” said Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population.
However, the local levels in Kathmandu stated that keeping an eye on such a huge population was a herculean task and that making matters worse were the internal migrants.
According to Ishwor Man Dangol, Kathmandu Metropolitan City spokesperson, the best way to eliminating the cases of COVID-19 positive individuals travelling freely was to ask for COVID-19 negative report at airports or bus parks.
“During the first phase of COVID-19, people even got tested under false names. However, when the test came out positive, they came at Ward offices to rectify them to claim COVID-19 insurance money,” said Dangol.
As per the concerned authorities, while only the government is being blamed for the rising cases of the contagion, the negligence from the general public also has played a great role.
“People testing positive are also found leaving their houses citing good health condition. Families, neighbours and society can help by informing incidents of COVID-19 positive individuals defying health safety guidelines, following which strictly is the only way forward to win over the pandemic,” said Dr. Gautam.
– The Rising Nepal