When we had the first case of the virus in Nepal, around 3 months ago, nobody believed we would need strict measures in place to stop it spreading. However, the number of cases is rising – about 10,000 people have been infected leading to 80,000 people having to quarantine.
However, the conditions they are living are poor – the pandemic is putting our country under so much pressure.
Many of these people are having to quarantine in schools, small hospitals or community buildings. Recently I interviewed a government official in charge of one of the quarantine centres in Banke.
During this conversation, the official claimed the quarantine facility is providing enough care to the people, who were mostly migrants workers coming back home from India. But I was not convinced and that is not what I saw when I was there.
Quarantine centres unclean and unsafe
Firstly, the school was converted into a quarantine centre. The place was not clean. People were not wearing masks or maintaining social distance. These are 2 basic precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. There were also not enough basic facilities required for that number of people to stay at the facility.
In some other areas in the country, quarantine centres lack separate toilets for girls and women, and they lack mosquito nets and adequate space for the people who stay there. There are no separate sleeping facilities for men and women – beds are laid out in single room. This is not safe, and a woman was raped in one of the facilities.
I am disturbed to see such poor conditions in these facilities.
The poor quality of these quarantine centres has led to rumours, stigma and discrimination against the people who have had to stay there, causing them stress and worry.
If this process was better managed, the situation would be much different. Therefore, I am calling on the government to provide mental health support to the people in quarantine centres. In addition, the government should take girls’ needs into account as they are very different from men’s needs.
What the government should do
Therefore, the government authorities must improve the quality of quarantine centres. I am disturbed to see such poor conditions in these facilities. They should be a safe and hygienic place that people can trust to prevent the spread of COVID-19.