Nepal | May 28, 2020

Police personnel at high risk of contracting COVID-19

Himalayan News Service
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Kathmandu, March 28

Hem Krishan Thapa, 35, a police constable who is deployed on a road in Kaushaltar, has to deal with hundreds of people coming out of their homes despite the government imposed lockdown in the country.

Thapa does not have personal protective gear expect a washable mask and gloves, these too have collected dust. Thapa is one among the 5,000 policemen deployed in Kathmandu valley to ensure that the people abide by the government imposed lockdown. These policemen are required to perform 12 to 16 hours of duty on a regular basis.

Policemen across the country are in the frontline of the battle against coronavirus. But, the government seems to have compromised their safety. Considering the highly contagious nature of the virus, these policemen are at high risk of contracting the disease.

Some policemen use multi-functional arrest and rescue device to arrest lockdown violators. But, Nepal Police only have six such devices, which are definitely not enough given the number of police personnel deployed throughout the valley.

Today, police booked more than 500 lockdown violators. “Normally we try to maintain social distancing, but it is not possible in all cases, and it increases our chances of coming into contact with persons infected with coronavirus,” police constable Thapa said.

He also said policemen were required to buy face masks and gloves themselves and they did not have access to clean water and soap for hand-washing or hand sanitisers while performing their duty.

Another police constable Pun Bahadur Magar deployed in Balkot said 37 policemen had to stay together at Balkot Police Circle. “We know that we should not live in groups and avoid crowds. We try our best to maintain social distancing, but it does not seem possible all the time due to the nature of our work,” he added.

Deputy Inspector General Bishwa Raj Pokharel, chief of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s Office, however, said, “We have made arrangements for washing hands at each temporary police beat, and are regularly sanitising police posts and stations.” He admitted that they were not able to provide facemasks, gloves or sanitisers to all police personnel. He further said the police administration was well- prepared to tackle possible COVID-19 outbreak inside police camps and stations.

In Lokanthali, at least three policemen were seen resting inside a temporary police beat, which merely had space to accommodate three chairs. They did not have masks and gloves. One of the policemen said, “We were given masks and gloves just once and there was no point in wearing the same face mask and gloves over and over again. Repeated use of the same masks and gloves rather increase chances of infection.”

No matter how much the police authorities claim that they have adopted all safety measures for police personnel, the ground reality is that low ranking police personnel are prone to virus infection.

A version of this article appears in print on March 29, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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