KATHMANDU, Dec 24: Although the Kathmandu Valley is still at a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division has started checking drink driving through breathalyzers.
Arguing that the number of accidents influenced by alcohol has increased after late night restaurants and cafés were allowed to operate, the division has resumed checking drink driving at major junctions of the Valley from last week.
The resumption of drunk driving checking through breathalyzers has posed a risk to both drivers and traffic police officers deployed on the field.
“Yes, this is the time of a pandemic, but the division has no other option than to start checking drink driving. As late night restaurants and cafés have already resumed their operation, there has been a rise in the number of drink and drive cases,” said Superintendent of Police Shyam Krishna Adhikari, who is the spokesperson for the division.
The division, however, says that there is no risk of getting infected from breathalyzers. “Drivers have to blow air into the breathalyzers during checking. The division has been using non-contact breathalyzers for checking drunk drivers,” said Adhikari, adding that all units of the division have started checking drink driving.
In the last 10 days, the division has already booked almost 500 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol.
The division has resumed checking drink driving after a halt for almost nine month. In March, traffic police halted checking drink driving realizing the use of breathalyzers could spread the COVID-19 infection among drivers and traffic police personnel.
“The number of accidents has increased after the resumption of late night eateries. As most of the accidents occurred due to drunk driving, it is the responsibility of the division to monitor the situation,” said Adhikari.
Although the number of COVID-19 cases has been decreasing in the Kathmandu Valley in recent days, the positivity rate still stands at more than 10 percent. The positivity rate shows that the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the Valley is still too high.
Talking to Republica, public health experts said that checking drink driving through breathalyzers has posed a risk of COVID-19 transmission among drivers, two-wheeler riders, and even traffic police personnel on the field.
“When riders and drivers blow air into the breathalyzers, droplets are also released from them. This poses a risk to both drivers and traffic police personnel,” said Sher Bahadur Pun, a virologist at Teku Hospital.
“Though traffic police officers wear a face mask, they can contract the virus through their eyes as riders and drivers have to remove face masks while blowing air into breathalyzers,” he said.