The Kathmandu Valley recorded 301 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, marking the highest single day rise since the start of the pandemic.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), Kathmandu District alone recorded 230 new cases. Lalitpur also recorded the highest number of daily new cases with 47 infections while Bhaktapur detected 24 new cases.
The highest spike in the Kathmandu Valley coincides with the local authorities’ extension of prohibitory orders by an additional week. The chief district officers of all three districts had jointly imposed prohibitory orders in the valley on August 19, effectively barring the mobility of people. On Wednesday, the authorities issued a notice giving continuity to the prohibitory orders till September 2.
Other than emergencies, all government services have been halted since the prohibitory orders took effect. Local authorities claim that the most stringent measures were taken to contain the spread of the virus. Indeed, public gatherings in outdoor spaces have stopped altogether; shops are only open for three hours in the morning, and vehicles and pedestrians alike have retreated indoors, leaving the streets empty.
Despite these measures, the number of confirmed cases has continued to rise. Many of these cases likely include people who were infected before the prohibitory orders took place but are being diagnosed currently, and the full impact of the prohibitory order is yet to show effects.
Doctors strongly suggest that the general public strictly abide by the prohibitory orders and adopt all measures to stay safe from the virus, but they are also doubtful whether measures such as locking people up in their homes, combined with testing, will be enough to effectively stop the virus from spreading.
“We have been saying since the beginning that imposing a lockdown is not enough to check the spread of the virus. The government should be making other preparations to fight Covid during this period, but it is merely counting the number of cases,” said epidemiologist Lhamo Sherpa.
Dr Sherpa, one of the specialists to warn the government about an imminent explosion of cases in the capital, said that the government has not set up the necessary isolation and quarantine centres. This is another big oversight in terms of managing the crisis in the densely populated valley, home to roughly five million residents.
“By now, the government should have arranged separate hospitals for Covid and general patients. Frontliners should have been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and they should have diligently traced the contacts of the infected. None of this has been done. Consequently, cases have gone up,” she said.
The virus has spread unabated, largely due to the lack of contact tracing. Delayed test results have increased the risk of exposure to the infected but not as yet diagnosed people. Those who have undergone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and are awaiting results must be asked to self isolate until their results are out. But the government has not taken any systematic measure to either trace contacts or ensure that they self isolate.
“Initially, they even tried to hide the cases, but the virus had already spread in the valley. Now, hospitals are filling up and frontline workers are getting infected,” said Dr Sherpa. “The situation seems to be getting worse.”
Covid-19 cases started increasing dramatically immediately after the government lifted a four month long lockdown on July 22. This caused a huge influx of people into Kathmandu, while many arranged passes to leave and enter at will. Authorities failed to effectively test those entering, allowing the virus to unleash on the residents of the valley.
Coronavirus cases have almost doubled in the last one month while the death rate has increased threefolds. As Covid cases continue to spike, more people have also been dying. On Wednesday alone, 11 people died, taking the death toll to 175.
At MoHP’s regular press briefing, spokesperson Dr Jageshwor Gautam informed that 885 new Covid cases had been detected across the country in the past 24 hours, taking the total cases to 34,418. Most infections were recorded in Kathmandu, Sarlahi, Sunsari, Lalitpur, Dhanusha, and Chitwan districts.
A total of 53 districts are under prohibitory orders. However, they have not begun tracing the contacts of infected patients. All districts have only prioritised testing, but testing on its own is not enough to help flatten the curve.