EDITORIAL: Quarantine strictly

Our health authorities are advised to see to it that the Nepalis returning from Hubei province in China are quarantined strictly

With a host of countries evacuating their nationals from Hubei province in China, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Nepal, too, will be flying home its citizens later this week. Plans are afoot to send a chartered aircraft of Nepal Airlines Corporation to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, on Wednesday to airlift some 180 Nepalis who have applied at the Nepali Embassy in Beijing to return home for fear of contracting the virus. Most of the applicants are students who are studying in the Chinese province. There are, however, procedures to be followed before the Nepalis can be flown back home. Before the evacuation, the Nepalis in Hubei will need to undergo a check-up in China to see if they have been infected by the virus. Should they test positive, they will have to stay behind in China for treatment. As for those who can return to Nepal, the Nepali government must give assurances to its Chinese counterpart that they would be quarantined strictly before they leave for home.

With time running out fast, the Ministry of Health and Population has proposed a number of places in the Kathmandu Valley to quarantine the Nepalis who will be landing in Kathmandu this week. They include NEA and ADB training centres in Bhaktapur, the Nepal Administrative Staff College at Jawalakhel, the Ayurvedic Teaching Hospital in Kirtipur and even an apartment block at Ichangu Narayan in Kathmandu. Barring the Ayurvedic hospital, any other site will require laying the minimum facilities to quarantine the Nepalis for at least two weeks before they are free to travel home. This means erecting facilities overnight for them to sleep and eat, having a team of doctors and nurses to tend to them round the clock, emergency care should someone fall sick, and, above all, security so that no one steps outside the compound so as to prevent any type of contact with outside people.

So far, no one has tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Nepal, although some suspected cases did throw up a scare. However, for the first time this week, Nepalis in such large numbers will be flying home directly from the Chinese province, where the deadly virus is spreading rapidly and claiming lives. The novel coronavirus has killed 304 people in China so far, which is about 2 per cent of the 14,380 infected as of Saturday. Our health authorities are, therefore, advised to take all the necessary measures to see that they are quarantined satisfactorily and released only when there is guarantee that they pose no health threats. In the event of an outbreak, Nepal can ill afford to erect a hospital overnight as in China to contain the virus. Thus, prevention is the key to keep the disease at bay. China apart, now that suspected cases have also been reported in more than two dozen countries, including the developed world, it is necessary to thoroughly screen all visitors coming to this country by air or land. At times like this, regulating the long open border with India at short notice is a major challenge, where a second case of the novel coronavirus has been reported. But there is no alternative. All you need is one infected person to spread the virus from one human to another and start an epidemic.

Child care homes

The number of children ending up in child care homes is on the rise every year, according to a report published by the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens. There were a total of 14,864 children – 7,194 boys and 7,670 girls – in child care homes across the country in 2017-18. However, the number reached 15,565 in 2018-19. More boys were found to be living in child care centres compared to girls in 2018-19. There are as many as 533 child care homes registered with the government in 46 districts. But most of the child care homes do not meet the standard set by the National Child Rights Council (NCRC). Providing shelter alone is not enough. The children, who have been abandoned by their parents or rescued from the streets, also deserve a basic education and minimum health care. The ultimate goal of the NCRC should be to reunite them with their families so that they can lead a normal life when they grow up. Those children living in the child care homes should be sent to public schools to ensure that they can mix up with other kids and also learn life skills and values of a family. The local levels can play a vital role in ensuring that the child care homes provide basic services to the helpless kids.