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Nepal: Coronavirus panic and fear spreads across the country

KATHMANDU: With fears of coronavirus doing the rounds in Humla, Karnali Academy of Health Sciences (KAHS) has sent a team of doctors to study the situation there.

“We received reports that a man travelling from near the Chinese border was infected with the virus and have thus, mobilised our team to go learn the facts,” informed Dr. Mangal Rawal, KAHS Director. According to Dr. Rawal, the three-member team led by Dr. Ashok Gautam, will leave for Jumla today and analyse the situation. They will also administer any required treatment.

Lately, a few reports surfaced about a man from Limatang, Simkot Gaunpalika – 3, who had just returned from China, developing suspicious symptoms and being placed under the supervision of the local health post.

Similarly, KAHS, along with District Administration Office, Jumla and Social Development Office, has organised a comprehensive public awareness programme about corona, its symptoms, preventative measures and its present situation worldwide.

Speaking at the event, Minister for Internal Affairs and Law of Karnali State Naresh Bhandari ordered the Academy to set up a separate desk for the research and treatment of the virus. He also suggested KAHS to consult with all the health professionals and relevant stakeholders from all the districts of the State and prepare a concrete plan.

Meanwhile, in Lamjung fear of the virus has led people to hoard surgical masks, causing a severe shortage in the market.

Almost all the medical and pharmaceutical shops in Besisahar, Lamjung claim to have run out of masks. The few shops that have them are selling them at Rs. 50, five times more than the normal price, according to customers.

One such customer Srijana Shrestha complained, “Everybody says that we need to wear masks for protection from the virus. So, we are forced to buy them at very high prices.”

The shop owners, however, deny that they are over-charging the customers and say that they themselves have not been able to find masks. “We try to bring masks from Kathmandu or Pokhara, but there is a shortage of masks in these cities as well,” Suman Dhital, manager of Suman Medical Hall, Sera, said. “Many schools and offices have made masks mandatory so the limited supply goes there,” he added.

This shortage of surgical masks has not just hit the people but also hospitals. According to Dr. Bir Bahadur Syangtan, medical officer of Lamjung District Community Hospital, the hospital doesn’t have enough masks for its doctors to wear during surgeries.

And the irony of all this is that the normal masks don’t even protect against the virus. “The normal masks that people wear only stop dirt and dust, not virus. People need a special type of mask to protect against viruses,” Dr. Syangtan stated.

The locals became particularly afraid after the Chinese nationals working at the Ngyadi Hydropower Project returned from China.

Furthermore, the government has asked people to avoid large gatherings and conferences, leading many institutions around the country to cancel their pre-scheduled events.

Sankhuwasabha has also not remained untouched by this with the District Health Office (DHO), Sankhuwasabha calling on people to not take part in Holi celebrations this year. The office stated the excessive use of water and colour during the festival posed a risk to public health.

“People use dirty water and come in close contact with each other, which increases the chances of the virus spreading,” said DHO chief Ramesh Barhakoti. He also informed that the DHO had prioritised public awareness campaigns to alert people about the virus.

(With input Netra Shahi,Khalanga, Belina Thapa,Lamjung, Dhyan Kulung,  Sankhuwasabha)

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