Province 2 government expedites bid to trace contacts of three positive cases

Kathmandu/ Birgunj, April 12

Government authorities are not sure when the three Indian Muslim preachers, who tested positive for COVID-19 today, had come to Nepal and for how long they had been staying at a mosque in Chhapkaiya of Birgunj Metropolitan City.

Although the three men told government authorities that they came to Nepal in December, the local administration did not believe them. Local residents, however, say the three men had been staying in the mosque for the past 13 days.

According to locals, one man is from New Delhi, while two are from Uttar Pradesh.

As the news of three coronavirus positive cases spread in the city, government authorities swung into action, cordoning off Chhapkaiya and the mosque as ordered by Province 2 government in its bid to trace all who came into contact with the three positive cases.

Assistant Chief District Officer of Parsa District Lalit Kumar Basnet told THT that the three Indians had told the government authorities that they came to Nepal in December and the government authorities were trying to find out the veracity of their claim.

“Had these people come to Nepal in December and contracted the disease earlier, they should have shown symptoms much earlier,” Basnet said. He added that it was possible that they contracted the disease from other Indian visitors who might have visited the mosque recently.

“Since Indians regularly visit the Chhapkaiya-based mosque, the three Indians might have contracted the disease from other visitors from India,” he added. Basnet said the authorities were analysing the call details of the three men to know if they had visited other places of the district or had gone outside the district so that authorities could trace all the people who came in contact with them.

Basnet said the chances of these men spreading COV- ID-19 to a larger mass was slim as district administration had been enforcing prohibition on gatherings at religious and other places since March 24 and the city was also under lockdown since March 24.

“But we can’t rule out the possibility of some people taking advantage of the porous border to cross into Nepal from India,” he said. He added that recently locals were also helping the administration to trace people who had returned from foreign countries.

Basnet said that recently police had to act in Parsa, Bara, Rautahat and Saptari as there was increased activity in mosques there that could complicate the government’s fight against the deadly disease.

Government authorities have so far quarantined 26 people who came in contact with the three Indians and have started conducting rapid diagnostic tests.

Basnet said Birgunj residents had a tendency to gather in large numbers if anything happened in the city, therefore DAO Parsa was mulling over clamping curfew to strictly enforce the lockdown.

Mayor of Birgunj Metropolis Vijay Kumar Sarawagi said the news of three COVID-19 positive cases increased pressure on his office as the city was already grappling with resources to deal with the disease. “We do not even have a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machine to conduct COVID-19 tests. We are yet to do full contact tracing,” he said and added that there was no designated COV- ID-19 hospital in the city.

Sarawagi said he was considering strict enforcement of the lockdown in the city for a few days barring people even from buying groceries from the market.

“We are thinking of supplying groceries to the city residents at their doorsteps for a few days,” he added. Birgunj has a population of five lakh people.