Though it is mandatory for returnees from India to stay in some sort of isolation for a certain period before they mingle with their families due to the risk of coronavirus, migrant workers in Bajura are seen openly moving around in their villages, with the authority concerned doing little to make them comply with the isolation or quarantine provisions.

According to local Ramesh Thapa of Budhiganga Municipality, not a single local level in the district has cared about managing migrant workers safely. This has indirectly contributed to the rapid spread of the virus. According to an estimate, more than 1,000 persons have thus far returned home from India in the district following imposition of the lockdown.

The authorities have not bothered to conduct any health check-up of returnees nor to keep any record of the returnees.

It's important to note that Bajura is at high risk of the contagion like any other place in the region. Till yesterday, 220 active COVID cases were reported in the district, and four people have lost their lives in the second wave of the virus till date. Another 21 COVID patients are said to be undergoing treatment in the isolation facility of the district hospital.

In view of the increasing risk, a prohibitory order has been in force in the district from May 5.

Locals have expressed concern about the influx of thousands of people from India as well as places such as Dhangadi, Mahendranagar, Nepalgunj and Kathmandu amid the pandemic and the lack of testing to verify the infection here.

The virus has gripped the district so much that cases are being reported even from the hinterlands, such as Himali Rural Municipality. "Sixteen persons were tested for the virus in Kotgaun for antigens and 12 of them tested positive," said the rural municipality's Chief Administrative Officer Raj Bahadur Bhandari.

Kotgaun, which lies in Himali Rural Municipality, is yet to be linked by road network and it takes four days of trek from the district headquarters to reach. With cases being reported even in this remote area, there are concerns about the virus spreading rapidly in the district.

A total of 42 people are said to have tested positive for the virus in the rural municipality. Though every one of them appears to be normal, they are all asymptomatic cases.

"Though there are many people showing symptoms of coronavirus, almost everywhere in the district, most of them are reluctant to get tested for fear that the test result will come out positive," said Budhiganga Municipality Health Coordinator Dipak Shah.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 19, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.