Nepal | October 20, 2020

Travelling can increase risk of coronavirus transmission

The government should entice labourers to stay where they are

Himalayan News Service
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With authorities allowing domestic flights and inter-district travel for the upcoming festive season, travelling on buses or planes for any length of time may increase the risk of COVID transmission.

“Travel increases the risk of coronavirus transmission,” a senior official of the World Health Organisation told THT.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population Jageshwar Gautam said his ministry had appealed to the public not to travel to other cities or villages to celebrate Dashain or other festivals, as that could lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“If we remain healthy, we can visit our villages and celebrate festivals next year with all our family members, but if we lose any of our loved ones to COVID-19, it will be an irreparable loss for our families,” Gautam said. Asked if the ministry was considering imposing stricter measures during Dashain or Tihar, Gautam ruled out lockdown or prohibitory measures.

He said wearing masks and maintaining social distance were the most effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Public health expert Mahesh Kumar Maskey said people’s movement from one district to another would increase the risk of infection. People should avoid visiting their ancestral places during this Dashain, Tihar or Chhath festivals.

“Labourers who are staying in Kathmandu might want to leave the capital city as no work will be available for them during festivals. The government should provide some incentive to them to entice them to stay where they are. But I doubt whether the government has made any such plan,” he added.

Samir Mani Dixit, another public health expert, however, said allowing public vehicles to ply during festival season could reduce the risk of infection in Kathmandu. “Some infected people may go out of Kathmandu.

Controlling the spread of COVID-19 in smaller cities and villages will be easier,” he argued.

Dixit said imposing lockdown or prohibitory measures would not reduce the risk of COVID transmission as the disease had spread to the community.

He added that government authorities should make the public aware about safety measures and should make compassionate appeal to the public not to visit old family members or those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Vijay Swar, vice-president of the Federation of Nepalese National Transport Entrepreneurs, said lockdown or restriction on public transport would only have an adverse impact on the national economy.

He said people were falsely blaming public transport for the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases. “Even when public transport was prohibited after March 24, people kept travelling in private vehicles and no government authorities checked them. Passes issued by the government for vehicles were also misused. These factors led to sudden spike in the number of COVID cases in Kathmandu valley,” he said, adding that if the government was concerned about public transport, it could ask passengers to undergo PCR test 72 hours before the scheduled journey as was the case for those travelling by air.

“But if passengers have to produce PCR test results, then the government should subsidise the test. People should not be asked to pay more than Rs 500 per test,” he added.


A version of this article appears in print on October 14, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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