KATHMANDU, May 31: Jainudin Ansari, a tailor from Birgunj, was living a normal life, then terror struck. All 18 members of his family, including his four-and-half-month old grandchild, were tested positive for coronavirus. Following this, they were taken to Narayani Sub Regional Hospital, Birgunj, where the isolation wards were already packed.
"We were 75 people in total, and everyone tested positive for the virus," reports Ansari, who is already back home after staying in the hospital for 19 days. Along with him, all the family members have returned home. The story of those 18 days and the aftermath is interesting.
Ansari, 66, told Republica over the phone that they were kept in hospital for nothing. He and his family members did not have a lack of appetite, vomiting tendency, muscle cramp. No headache, fever or cough. He was actually waiting to see if the symptoms would appear as the report suggested that he and his family were in a danger zone.
"But nothing happened!" He wonders if corona is as dangerous as the media and the government are saying.
"What is corona? I could not feel it. You are just fit and fine and they say that you have this corona and then you are not allowed to move around, or do your work," he laments, adding that he could have stitched a few more clothes, and prepared for the Eid festival which was round the corner. He is not satisfied about the 'days wasted' in the hospital.
Eight people were kept in each ward, according to Sabir, one of his sons. Though it felt a little different for a day or two, the hospital turned into a home from the next day. Children were playing on the floor, making noises. Elders were sitting close and chatting casually. "None of us had health complications. We all were at one place, we actually had a good time there," Sabir laughed, adding that he is surprised over the nature of corona.
When Ansari first heard that he and others in the family had tested positive for the virus, he was scared. There was an infant in the family and that worried him the most. He now says that corona is overrated. “The fear is bigger than the virus and its impact.”
"None of the 75 people in the hospital showed symptoms. We were provided with normal food, they gave some vitamins. Our reports later showed negative for corona; we were discharged. What the hell is this corona I am so confused!" he remarked.
Nepal has recorded over 1400 coronavirus cases so far and the number is increasing rapidly. Reports from different hospitals indicate that the infected are asymptomatic. Even the six death cases said to have resulted from corona are controversial, as many believe that poor health facilities and the lack of timely medical attention cost their lives. Some say Nepal does not have a clear COVID19 related death case, where the deceased did not have other health complications.
Interestingly, very few people are keen to go for a test. According to a Janakpur-based doctor, Mukesh Jha, who works at Godavari Hospital located in Janakpur Metropolis – 8, none of the patients he suggested for the test followed his instructions. "In the past few weeks, I have suggested many for the test as they complained of sore throat and fever. But they say they will be alright, and did not go for a test," he told Republica.
The government has been preparing to welcome thousands of migrant workers willing to come home from abroad. Nobody knows whether the coronavirus impact in Nepal will be the same. "We have to understand the difference between COVID19 and corona. If someone tests positive for it but shows no related symptoms, that person is not a patient, he or she is only an infected. Only if symptoms surface, one should be called a patient," says Sameer Mani Dixit.
Also according to Sagar Rajbhandari, the director of Teku Hospital (Shukraj Tropical Infectious Hospital), the cases he handled at the hospital have not been worrisome. The patients could infect others, that is the main reason they had to be isolated. "We have not found complicated cases so far," he said.
Isolating the coronavirus cases is important because those with low immunity or with other chronic health issues are vulnerable. According to social worker Ujjawal Thapa, he does not fear corona as he has realized that it is nothing more than a mild cough and cold. It dawned on Thapa, who was on a strict lockdown earlier, after he talked to several people infected with corona at home and abroad. "But I still need to take care, and my mother is old. She may not have the same immunity power," he states.