This is not a situation in which we are sleeping while people are suffering in lockdown: CDO of Kathmandu
KATHMANDU: The three CDOs of Kathmandu Valley have issued a valley-wide prohibitory order from yesterday to help control the transmission of COVID-19. People’s life in the valley has been completely affected due to the order that came into effect from yesterday morning.
Pursuant to Sub-section 2 of Section 2 of the Infectious Diseases Act, 2020, the concerned Chief District Officer can issue a prohibitory order for each district. Accordingly, it had been decided to issue a prohibitory order for 15 days with effect from 6 AM yesterday. After discussions with the Chief District Officers of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, it was decided to impose a one-week prohibitory order. However, the cabinet meeting amended it and extended it for two weeks.
Chief District Officer of Kathmandu, Kali Prasad Parajuli, says that the decision to disrupt public life was not in their interest but one that came out of compulsion. He has said that COVID would not be controlled only by the provisions implemented by the government, and has said that it is also necessary for the people themselves to be aware.
Keshab Bhul of Nepal Press talked to Kathmandu Chief District Officer Kali Prasad Parajuli about the implementation of this prohibitory order. Below is an excerpt of the conversation with Parajuli, presented in Nepal Talk:
The prohibitory order has been issued. How are you implementing it?
It is the responsibility of everyone, not just the administration, to implement it. Therefore, we have requested all parties to implement the order because it is a matter of self-awareness.
The general public and stakeholders should first understand why the prohibitory order is imposed. We have issued this prohibitory order to reduce the rate of infections, to control the disease and to reduce crowds. Therefore, the people themselves should be aware not to go to unnecessary crowds, not to go out except for urgent work, must follow the standards of health, must wear a mask and maintain physical distance.
Everyone should follow the criteria of maintaining physical distance while going to buy essential items. We also urge you not to engage in other unnecessary activities and to avoid unnecessary crowds. This is not just a matter for us but for the citizens themselves to follow.
We can only monitor whether the prohibition has been complied with. For that, Nepal Police and Armed Police have also made arrangements for mobilization.
We have also made arrangements for microphone announcements and requested all municipalities and villages to implement the prohibitory order. Police have also been mobilized to conduct extensive patrols. Through this, awareness can be spread and monitoring can be done.
We will also hold, control and fine those who make crowds and also those who do not wear masks. All parties are responsible for this. People have been asking me why the issuance of the lockdown was delayed. There have also been suggestions received over the phone because the rate of infection has become very high. Hence, we expect the current lockdown to be fully implemented.
In the past, strict lockdown did not stop the spread of coronavirus. Why are you repeating the same failed experiment now?
This is not something of our interest, but an obligation. If COVID-19 infection rate had not increased now and the situation had been normal, there would have been no need to issue a prohibitory order.
The public health condition is very critical right now, with a shortage of beds in the hospital, the number of patients increasing daily, and lack of access to medical treatment. Therefore, the order has been issued as per the advice and suggestions of all so that this pandemic does not become disastrous.
What is the difference between the previous lockdown and the current prohibitory order?
At present, domestic and international flights have not been postponed. Last year, everything was closed. Last year, there was a situation of lockdown all over the country. For example, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur have issued a prohibitory order together, but this has not been done in Dhading, Nuwakot and Kavrepalanchok. So this year is very different from last year. Only where the infection rate has risen sharply have orders been issued.
As the prohibitory order was issued only up to the borders of the valley, it is easy to reach the border point. People can still enter from there by foot, can’t they?
I have given suggestions to the Ministry of Home Affairs and especially the Secretary in this regard. We cannot stop passengers coming via Thankot or Jagati from leaving other cities or their hometowns. Because of this, we have tried to tighten the entry points. We have banned the movement of vehicles inside Kathmandu Valley. Long-distance passenger vehicles and passengers such as those from Biratnagar, Birgunj, etc. should not enter the valley. Similarly, Chitwan, Dhading, Nuwakot, Kavrepalanchok and Sindhuli all have to take initiative from there to prevent entry into Kathmandu Valley. That is what we have requested.
I have made the same request to the Chief Ministers of all the seven provinces and the Chief District Officers of other districts. They have been asked not to allow vehicles to leave, as they will not be permitted into the valley. This will be implemented accordingly.
It has been said that those who enter the Kathmandu Valley from outside have to stay in quarantine. How is this monitored?
Everyone does not have to stay in quarantine centres. Now you can also stay in home isolation. The people themselves have to be more conscious. If someone has a cold or other symptoms of COVID infection, they should be careful to not transmit it to others. They should not travel long distances. If there is a problem on the way while traveling, you should not hide the infection, declare yourself as infected and stay in mandatory isolation.
In the past, there was a tendency for the government to sleep comfortably and for citizens to suffer after announcing a lockdown. Is it the same this time?
No, it is not. Yes, now the District Administration Office of Kathmandu has been closed. But, when you entered our office, you saw the same crowd. So do you think we are resting? No.
A Rapid Response Team has been formed. A team of joint secretaries from different sectors has also been formed in the Ministry of Industry. A team comprising Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Director General of the Department of Commerce will look after the management of commerce and supplies. Other government agencies will also monitor their respective areas. Therefore, it does not mean that the government instruments sleep and the citizens suffer.
Two days time was given before the prohibitory order came into effect. Does this mean that the coronavirus did not transmit in these two days? Again, when people are allowed to move to and from villages and Kathmandu, will COVID not spread nationwide?
It is not like that. We believe that people should be allowed to move towards their destinations by following the standards of public health. If there is a prohibitory order for 10 or 15 days, people will lose their livelihood and those who earn daily wages will have to worry about what to eat. Prolonged prohibitory orders may result in inability to help those in trouble.
If someone has to go abroad but their passport has not been renewed, we will do that too. That is not a big deal. However, now that everyone is barred from going abroad, I don’t think citizenship is so important. If there is any such problem, we will address it.
Therefore, those who work away from home should be given the opportunity to reach home. We all know that citizens had to face various problems due to the sudden announcement of lockdown previously. Thus, we believe that those going to their homes are taking care of themselves and their families by following the standards of public health.
We hope that they will stay in quarantine or isolation. I request everyone to do this.
Thus, letting people go to their destinations do not mean that we are making COVID more widespread, but we believe that everyone should pay attention to how to prevent it.
Air transport is operating, only road transport is closed. It is seen that ordinary citizens cannot move around but well-off citizens can. Why such discrimination?
In a sense, you are right. We accept your suggestions and have also informed the concerned authorities.
Now homework is needed on what to do with internal and external flights and how to manage the passengers. There is also the challenge of managing the number of passengers while maintaining domestic flights in the event of a prohibition of public transport. We have taken all these things as suggestions and informed the concerned bodies.
Daily wage workers will lose their jobs due to the prohibitory order. Who will take care of them? Will this not create a situation in which they die of hunger rather than disease?
We have already asked all the local levels to prepare for the provision of free food to the troubled citizens. Last year, various social organizations provided food items.
The biggest thing we need to do currently is fight this disease. To fulfil one’s hunger, one can also eat raw rice and lentils. But if the disease is not treated, death is inevitable. So it is more about how to avoid and prevent the disease and less about hunger right now.
People have been queuing up at the District Administration Office seeking permission since the day the prohibitory order was issued. In the past, those with reach and connections could move around with permission and those without this were stuck at home. Won’t it be the same this time?
No. We are taking all requests right now. However, we have discouraged permission as much as possible. As you are a media person, you have been asked to move around on the basis of your identity card. Employees have been asked to move around on the basis of their identity cards. Thus, not everyone will be allowed.
We have also set limits on permission. We allow only those persons in dire need now, regardless of status, reach or connections. There has been no such discrimination and we will not allow this to happen.
The first clause of the order states that permission is not required for marriage. How can you be sure that this will not be misused?
Would people really get fake-married just to move around?
They may not get fake married, but can’t this be used as an excuse?
It is not so easy to get a fake marriage and to reserve a car that way. The bride and groom have to be faked, their clothes and jewelry has to be faked. The police will check whether it is fake or genuine. Therefore, if it is found to be fake, action will be taken.
Will people be able to travel on foot after the closure of public transport?
You can travel on foot. However, it is not possible to travel on foot without valid reasons. For example, in the morning, we have specified time from 6 to 10 AM and 5 to 7 PM to buy essential items like vegetables, fruits and food grains and from. In these times, you can walk.
In other cases, the police will monitor. The disease will also spread in places the police do not monitor. No matter what else, the people have to be careful. Do not go to unnecessary crowds. If crowds are seen, the police will take action against them.
Will there not be overcrowding when shops are opened only during specified times?
No, in the morning we have given 4 hours – from 6 to 10 AM. This is enough time to shop. If the shop is open for 4 hours, you can come even when it is empty. So why the crowd at 6 in the morning? In case it is crowded, you can come back in the evening from 5 to 7 PM.
How likely is the misuse of essential item vehicles or press pass?
This is about monitoring. We have told the police. I have received news that fake media identity cards have been issued. Now, we ask all the media houses for details on how many employees they have and we validate it. We provide this information to the police. If fake IDs are found, we will take action.
How will the police differentiate between fake and genuine on the street?
You have a Nepal Press ID. This will work. We will verify that your identity card has been issued by the official organization Nepal Press. And we also ask the media whether or not the people are real employees. We will check attendance. Real employees will have attended regularly. They will have an appointment letter. If we do not find information about the person after all these steps, we will find out the identity of the person who issued the fake identity card and take action according to prevailing laws.
What kind of services will be provided from the district administration and other offices amid the prohibitory order?
We are still offering services related to peace and security, issues and urgent recommendations. Other than that, we issue passports and citizenships. If someone has to go abroad but their passport has not been renewed, we will do that too. That is not a big deal. However, now that everyone is barred from going abroad, I don’t think citizenship is that important. If there is any such problem, we will address it.
What action will be taken against those who do not follow the prohibition?
Action is taken as per Local Administration Act and Infectious Diseases Act 2020. There are provisions of fine, imprisonment and warning.
How does DAO help when one has to drive in an emergency?
In such a case, we are thinking of making necessary arrangements in coordination with the Transport Practitioners Association. We will manage something.