COVID-19 fear looms, precautions being taken

Kathmandu, March 13

Nepal is still safe from coronavirus infection but the fear of contracting the deadly disease has gripped Kathmandu valley, prompting many to take precautions to prevent catching the virus.

Hospitals are among the places from where diseases can spread rapidly. THT visited a number of public and private hospitals to find out what patients and health practitioners are doing to keep themselves safe from COVID-19, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

One of the hospitals that THT visited was Bir Hospital, the largest public hospital in Nepal. There Amar Chaudhary, 18, from Kailali, was seen walking around wearing a face mask.

“I always wear a mask whenever I visit hospitals as they are always crowded,” said Chaudhary, who was there to treat his elder brother with a broken leg.

“I also have been washing my hands regularly as I have heard of the threat of coronavirus disease.”

Most of the caregivers that THT talked to at other hospitals too were wearing face masks and using hand sanitisers.

The demand for face masks and hand sanitisers has lately soared as almost every household in the valley is using them. This has created a shortage of these products not only in the markets but in hospitals as well.

We are facing a short supply of masks at the moment,” said Khem Raj Bhusal, consultant physician at Green City Hospital, Basundhara.

“Masks are a must for us because patients do not maintain a distance when talking to us. Many of them even get offended when we request them to do so.”

But it appears hospitals are gradually learning to deal with the situation head on.

Bir Hospital, for example, has started producing cloth masks on its own, after it started running out of surgical masks. “The production of 5,000 masks is under way. Those masks will be distributed to 3,000 of our staffers in the hospital.” said Rina Shrestha, nursing administrator at Bir Hospital.

Manmohan Memorial Medical College and Teaching Hospital, a private hospital, on the other hand, is producing hand sanitisers on its own. “We are taking all the precautions to prevent coronavirus infection,” said Manor Din Shaiyed, consultant gynaecologist at the hospital, adding, “The gowns used in intensive care units are disinfected after single use and special masks are given to doctors who perform surgery.”

Similar precautions are also being taken at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, which has been designated by the government for treatment of coronavirus suspected patients.

“We try not to come into direct contact with patients and we have been provided with masks, gloves and aprons,” said Bhoj Kumari Katuwal, nursing officer at STIDH.

The precautions taken by hospitals are vital in the fight against the disease.

But what if infection is finally detected and coronavirus cases start multiplying?

“The situation will be a lot more challenging if the virus is detected in Nepal, as hospitals lack beds and personal protective equipment,” said Ramesh Kumar Maharjan, emergency physician at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.

“This will not bode well for health practitioners, who will be on the frontline to fight the disease.”

Signs of infection

  • Fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
  • In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death

Ways of prevention

  • Regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing