Govt lacks health plans for foreign tourists

"Tourists may come with diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome, coronavirus and Ebola" 

Kathmandu, January 1

The government lacks immediate plan to address health issues of tourists visiting the country in 2020. It also doesn’t seem to be concerned about diseases the tourists might bring in with them.

The Ministry of Health and Population has been discussing measures to help the tourists visiting the country. “We are holding discussion on how to make tourists’ stay in Nepal safer and healthier. We are discussing to make focal units for emergencies. Also talks have been held on establishing units at hospitals to help tourists seeking medical help,” said Dr Bikash Devkota division chief, Policy Planning and Monitoring Division at MoHP. Tourists can encounter several health problems during their stay in the country. As there is a geographical variation in the country many tourists are likely to suffer from altitude sickness.

“Tourists can even suffer from altitude sickness in places like Nagarkot. Therefore, the government needs to provide them with information of altitude sickness at the immigration counters upon their arrival,” said Dr Baburam Marasini, former director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.

Also tourists are likely to suffer from food and water borne diseases in Nepal.

“When people consume contaminated food and water they will suffer from diarrhoea and other similar diseases. There should be a provision of quality food and water for all. There is also high risk for the tourists to suffer from injuries. Proper health service should be provided for the tourists immediately, when they fall sick,” added Dr Marasini.

When a large number of tourists visits the country there are high chances that they may also bring in diseases of various kinds. There should be proper screening of the tourists at the health desks of the immigration counters,” said Dr Marasini. “Tourists may bring with them Middle East respiratory syndrome, coronavirus and Ebola.

“After February there is risk of influenza in the country.

Therefore the government should be aware of all these aspects,” added Dr Marasini. Risk of water and food borne illnesses increase with rise in temperature which usually begins in March-April.

The government should make plans to prevent communicable diseases, according to Dr Marasini. Proper screening of the tourists should be done at the immigration. “The ministry has made plans to make the health desk at the immigration well equipped and we are planning to screen suspected travellers,” said Dr Devkota.

It will take at least one more month to come up with concrete health plans for the visitors, according a source at the ministry.