POKHARA, Jan 30: One of the topmost tourist destinations in the country, Pokhara receives quite a good number of tourists, including Chinese. This has made the locals here quite concerned over the possibility of the spread of coronavirus and they expect the authorities concerned to put in place the required safety measures. However, preparations by the authorities are not impressive.
Hospitals do not look alarmed as 'no case of coronavirus has been found in Pokhara so far'. There is no screening of travelers at the main entrances of the airport and bus parks in Pokhara. Similarly, there is no health desk at Lakeside and other major tourist spots in Pokhara.
"We have done some preparation but that is not adequate," said Tumaya Ghale, a doctor at Gandaki Medical College. "We don't have a kit to test the virus. We have to figure it out through the symptoms," she added.
The medical college has separated 15 beds in different cabins for suspected patients. But the lack of testing kit is a challenge. Due to the lack of such kits, suspected patients have to be kept in the hospital for 10 days.
"Although coronavirus patients have been found in many countries, the virus has killed people only in China. There is no reason to panic. But one should be careful," said Dr Ghale. "If cold and cough prolongs, it might be an issue," she added.
Dr Arjun Acharya, director of the Western Regional Hospital stated that there are only three beds and a ventilator meant for coronavirus infected people. Remarkably, this is the biggest hospital in Pokhara.
"For now, we can handle three patients infected with coronavirus at a time. All beds are occupied and there is no way to vacate them right away," he said.
"However, we must handle it as per the urgency," he added.
Also, according to Dr Acharya, though it is necessary to take preventive measures, there is no reason to panic.
In 2019, a total of 168,543 Chinese tourists visited Pokhara. This number was 153,633 in the previous year. This massive number of visitors from China every year certainly poses a threat of carrying the virus 'that originated in China', according to locals.
Baburam Acharya, information officer at the emergency operations center at the Provincial Health Directorate, meanwhile, informed Republica that preparations are underway to set up health desks at all 'vulnerable' points. "We are preparing for due screening of visitors at the main entrances and some other most virus-prone areas. Lakeside, airport, bus parks and major tourist spots will have such desks soon," he said.
According to Dr Ram Bahadur Chhetri, chief of Hospital Development and Health Services Branch of the Ministry of Social Development of Gandaki Province, there is lack of testing kits even in Kathmandu. "So, if symptoms are noticed in anyone here, we have to send the sample to Kathmandu for confirmation," he said.
He further stated that patients' flow at hospitals are always high. "We have to realize that the hospitals are already overcrowded. There is no need to panic. We have to be on alert. That's all."