Group detentions increase COVID-19 risk for Nepal Police personnel

No police station has isolated detention centre even after the coronavirus outbreak

— SSP Kuber Kadayat, Nepal Police spokesman

Kathmandu, August 17

A man arrested on August 12 and kept in general custody, along with 16 other detainees at Kalimati Police Circle, tested positive for the novel coronavirus yesterday. He was then taken to Kirtipur-based COVID-19 hospital under police security. But neither the detainees sharing the lock-up with the infected person for three days nor police personnel who arrested and served meal to the detainees have undergone polymerase chain reaction test.

While the number of people contracting coronavirus has been surging, Nepal Police personnel are at high risk of contracting the disease since they come in contact with prisoners who are locked up in groups, with no provision of isolated detention in police stations.

Hundreds of people are arrested daily and detained in groups in police stations across Nepal.

Senior Superintendent of Police Kuber Kadayat, who is also the spokesperson for Nepal Police, said, “No police station has isolated detention centre even after the coronavirus outbreak.”

Although the number of detainees has sharply declined after the introduction of nationwide lockdown on March 24, police stations normally do not have separate isolated rooms.

Metropolitan Police Range, Teku, one of the largest police stations in the country has some empty rooms as the number of detainees has decreased since March 24.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Rugam Bahadur Kunwar of Kalimati police station said they did not have any option but to keep detainees in groups. Recently, 15 police personnel of the Kalimati police station had to be quarantined after two cops tested positive for the contagion.

Kunwar urged health authorities to make public results of PCR tests within a day. The result normally comes after up to eight days.

As per the rule, police conduct PCR tests of detainees after their arrest. But, even this rule is not enough since it takes days before the test results are revealed.

So far, 678 police personnel across the country have contracted the novel coronavirus.

As many as 291 have already recovered and are back at work. As many as 160 police personnel from Nepal Police Headquarters at Naxal have tested positive for the virus, besides 33 cops in police stations inside the valley.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on August 18, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.