By Ajita Rijal Kathmandu, July 5: With the relaxation of lockdown by the government the public are found to be less cautious to adopt preventive measures to keep COVID-19 at bay. The COVID-19 caseload has been soaring daily but people have been acting as if “things have returned to normal.” It seems people have stopped following the guidelines and there’s little social distancing, said Poshan Sharma, a businessman from Balaju. Hundreds of people are rushing to the markets without adopting precautionary measures as before, which will have bad consequences on public health. "I’ve been taking precautions since the lockdown began and hoped the virus could be contained, but as the cases show no indication of declining I have taking things less seriously,” said Sangita Pant, a nurse. Health experts said that people would become less observant of the preventive measures with the passage of time, but they must be aware that it leads to serious consequences on health. “It’s the public who help themselves and others from the transmission of virus. Their behaviour and habit of adopting preventive measures would go a long way in containing the virus. The public have a great role to play in containing the virus as government alone cannot do anything,” said Dr. Basudev Pandey Director at Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) under the Department of Health. When the government imposed strict restrictions, people abided by the rules and stayed home, but now as the mobility has increased, they seem to be less cautious, say health experts.Easing the lockdown does not mean back to normal situation. They said that with the rise in number of cases people must be conscious and should be more disciplined. “We have to take extra precautions. As the cases spike, following the rules and maintaining habits of frequent hand washing, not going out except in emergency, using masks and keeping social distance is a must,” said Dr. Sharad Onta, a public health expert. According to Dr. Onta, it is not easy to say when the virus will be contained, or will reach the peak as it depends on the exit rate and the testing scope. The recovery rate and death define the exit way of the virus and scope of testing is the intervention into the disease, added Dr. Onta. Though there are continuous spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases, 99 per cent of them are asymptomatic, said Dr. Pandey. “96 per cent of the cases have come home from abroad and four per cent have no travel history to infection zones or close contact with the infected,” added Dr. Pandey. Valley dwellers must be cautious As Kathmandu Valley has witnessed sporadic cases in recent days, there is a risk of community transmission. And due to
high population density, it would be very difficult to contain the virus in the valley, said Dr. Pandey. Dr. Pandey insisted that the source of the virus would be untraceable and spread widely if the disease was being transmitted from the community. “Technically, we cannot say that the virus has spread in the community until now,” said Dr. Pandey. The Kathmandu Valley has witnessed more than 150 cases of COVID-19 till date. Among them, most cases are seen among foreign returnees while few are sporadic local cases, said Dr. Pandey. Proper contact tracing is the only way to contain the virus. “The EDCD is working to trace the contact of the infected people and their swab samples are being collected for the test,” added Dr. Pandey. It will be very tough to contain the disease once it breaks out in the communities on a massive scale. It may increase fatalities as more chronic patients, including elderly, small children and pregnant women, are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease, said Dr. Onta. Meanwhile, Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson at the Ministry of Health and Population, always requests the public to adopt all the preventive measures and guidelines of lockdown to prevent the transmission of the virus. During the regular media briefing, Dr. Gautam suggests the public not breaking the rules meant to contain the spread of COVID-19.