Given the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, on Monday, the mayors of Kathmandu Valley decided to halt all non-essential services for three weeks, with general services and public transportation to resume only after the first week of September.
According to Madan Sundar Shrestha, mayor of Madhyapur Thimi Municipality in Bhaktapur, the decision was made by the Municipality Mayors Forum, whose members comprise all of Kathmandu Valley’s mayors, over fears of possible community spread of the deadly virus in the densely populated metropolis. The Forum has also urged the government to suspend public transport, while strictly enforcing security protocols in industries, hotels and restaurants if they are to remain open. In response to concerns raised by mayors, the government decided on Monday evening to wait until the end of August to reopen academic institutions, commercial flights and long-distance bus service.
Kathmandu witnessed a surge in infections after a four month long nationwide lockdown officially ended on July 22. As of Monday evening, the valley has seen a total of 1,180 Covid cases along with two deaths on Monday. Monday’s single day tally shows a rise of 44 cases in the three main cities of the valley, with 36 cases in the Kathmandu metropolitan area alone. A section of Koteshwor was sealed-off after 16 out of 110 locals tested positive.
A few weeks ago, after reaching a daily high of 700 infections, the numbers had begun to come down, reaching 150 and dipping even further low. Given the encouraging figures, the government was making plans to announce a phase-wise reopening. But ever since the lockdown was lifted, more than 300 daily infections have been reported daily, making the prospect of reopening unrealistic.
Nepal, a country of 30 million, has so far seen 23,320 reported Covid-19 cases, along with 79 Covid-related deaths. Most of the initial cases were among Nepalis returning from China, India, Europe and the Gulf. More recently, however, the virus has been spreading through community transmission, something health experts strongly urge the government to curb. With the end of the lockdown, the general public has shown a carefree attitude, allowing the virus to spread unabated.
District Administration Offices in the valley have already suspended several services to contain the spread. The Ministry of Health and Population has meanwhile urged both community and private hospitals to allot at least 20 percent of beds for Covid patients as hospitals designated especially for such patients are already full.
Nepal’s first response to the coronavirus pandemic — a strictly enforced nationwide lockdown that began on March 24 — resulted in the closure of schools, colleges, markets and offices as well as a ban in public gatherings and vehicular movement. As a result, the national economy received a devastating blow, while tens of thousands of people, especially from the working-class who primarily engaged in the informal economy, lost their jobs.