On the very first day of the relaxation of the three week long prohibitory orders, Kathmandu Valley recorded 572 new Covid-19 cases — the highest single day rise so far — throwing doubt on the effectiveness of the prohibitory orders as measures to contain the virus.
Local authorities in the valley imposed a lockdown from August 19 with the intention of restricting people’s mobility. Issued by Kathmandu Valley’s Chief District Officers (CDOs), who fall under the jurisdiction of the central government and not the provincial or local governments, the prohibitory orders were stricter than the first phase of lockdown that the country had been through for four months. Even as all life was brought to a standstill in the valley, there was no let-up in the rise of coronavirus cases.
On Wednesday, the authorities decided to relax the restrictions by allowing regulated mobility of people and markets after entrepreneurs threatened to defy the orders. Months of lockdown have hit multiple industries, suffocated the lifeline of daily wage earners, and rendered thousands of people jobless.
Amid the entire crisis, authorities have not heeded experts’ recommendations, which include expansion of tests, isolation, treatment, and contact tracing. In the past three weeks, local authorities in the valley failed to set up even a single isolation centre while daily real time polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) tests remained constant at an average of 10,000.
Public health experts have long warned of a swift spread of the virus across the valley, the country’s most densely populated urban centre with five million residents. Of 1,246 Covid cases detected in the country on Thursday, 46 percent were recorded in Kathmandu Valley. With this, the number of Covid cases in the valley has reached 10,012, of which a staggering 7,514 were detected after the authorities imposed prohibitory orders on August 19.
The death toll has also increased significantly in Kathmandu. A total of 50 deaths have been recorded in the valley since the prohibitory orders came into effect. On Thursday, Kathmandu recorded 3 deaths, while two other deaths were from Kapilvastu and Chitwan. The national death toll has reached 317.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), the total number of Covid cases has crossed the 50,000 mark, with a threefold increase in the last seven weeks. A majority of the cases have come after the first lockdown was lifted on July 22. When the authorities saw that cases were rising dramatically, they imposed prohibitory orders that were stricter than the first lockdown, but they weren’t able to contain the spread. Currently, there are 14,448 active cases in the country.
MoHP’s spokesperson Dr Jageshwor Gautam said anyone who wishes to enter or exit Kathmandu will have to follow a mandatory 14-day home quarantine or go to quarantine facilities on their own expense after reaching the destination.
“Individuals should be responsible for all expenses while traveling from one place to another,” said Dr Gautam.