Districts across the country report mixed results on the first day of national lockdown

    On Tuesday, the first day of the state-enforced lockdown, districts across the country reported mixed results--while in a majority of districts, the situation remained normal with public complying with the order, in others the police had to make arrests, confiscate vehicles and even resort to imposing a curfew.

    In Province 5, all 12 districts remained eerily quiet on the first day of a week-long lockdown announced by the government in precaution against the spread of Covid-19.

    There were a few instances where some members of the public defied the state order in Butwal, a major city in the province; the police had to restrict the movement of a few motorbikes and counsel some construction labourers who were at work in Butwal’s Kalikanagar. At around noon, the police arrested two individuals for defying the order, according to Bhimlal Bhattarai, deputy superintendent of Area Police Office, Butwal. “We had to take charge when the individuals defied the order in sensitive times like this,” Bhattarai said. Despite these incidents, however, a majority of the public complied with the government order and didn’t show up on the streets.

    The Sunauli border point, which was swarmed with Nepalis returning from India over the past few days, also turned quiet on Tuesday. Almost all of the stores, barring a few pharmacies and grocery stores, remained closed. All of the industries in Rupandehi also remained shut. “The situation is under control in the district,” Mahadev Pant, Chief District Officer of Rupandehi, told the Post. Exceptions were made regarding the movement of 35 oil trucks of Nepal Oil Corporations that were allowed to cross the border but they too were returned by the Indian security since the country is also on a lockdown. Pant said that talks are ongoing to ease the movement of essential carriers across the border.

    Like Butwal, Bhairahawa and Sunauli, another of Province 5’s major towns, Nepalgunj, too remained shut on Tuesday. The Banke district administration had already announced a curfew starting midnight the preceding day when the movement of people didn’t lessen. “Negligence of one single person may prove dangerous,” Kumar Bahadur Khadka, Chief District Officer of Banke, said. “There’s no option than to stay inside, and we are fully committed to regulate the lockdown.”

    Meanwhile, in Kapilvastu, the district security office had to call an emergency meeting to announce a curfew after people defied the government fiat, according to Chief District Officer Dirgha Narayan Poudel. The police have arrested 15 individuals and over 50 vehicles for defying the order, according to DSP Sunil Malla of Kapilvastu Police.

    In Bardiya, the local units have been actively launching awareness programmes via audio-visual medium while also designating quarantine facilities and isolation wards in at least six places.

    In Rupandehi, while the city areas have remained shut, locals in rural areas express fear as many villagers have recently returned from India. Along with those returning from India, the villages have also seen a rise in the number of people returning from city areas. A few suspected cases in villages in Rupandehi and Gulmi have been sent to Lumbini Provincial Hospital. The hospital administration has said it has sent the throat swabs of the admitted patients to the Capital for testing. “Since the villages do not have testing centres or quarantine facilities and many have recently returned from India, many villagers have grown fearful,” Tejendra Thapa, a local social activist in Chankdrakot Rural Municipality, Gulmi, said. “About 2,000 people have returned to the villages in the local units recently from India and urban areas, and we are not sure whether all of them have been properly tested.”

    On Tuesday, many shops in Janakpur remained open until the police asked the shops to close their shutters for the day. Post photo

    On the first day of the nationwide lockdown, in Province-2 huge number of security personnel were deployed out on the streets since a majority of the people in most districts defied the state’s decision.

    Authorities started taking measures to stop people from coming out of their homes and into the streets. “We talked to violators who came to the street and sent them home on the first day of the lockdown. A prohibitory order or a curfew will be imposed from Wednesday if people keep violating the lockdown request,” said DIG Pradhumna Karki, chief of the provincial police office in Janakpur.

    On Tuesday, many shops in Janakpur remained open until the police asked the shops to close their shutters for the day.

    In Saptari, security personnel of Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force were deployed to implement the nation-wide lockdown in the district. Motorcycles and autorickshaws were seen moving in the streets while people were found to be out and about.

    Ananda Kumar Thakur, information officer at the district administration office, said the district faced a shortage of security personnel since a large number of Armed Police Force were deployed on the Nepal-India border point. “We requested the higher authorities to send an additional force in the district,” he added.

    In Birgunj, market places, factories and industries remained closed while the streets remained empty of vehicles. Only a few shops of essential commodities like pharmacy and general stores were open. Deputy Superintendent of Police Birendra Bahadur Shahi claimed the locals followed the lockdown request effectively in Birgunj and other places in Parsa district.

    Meanwhile, the district administration office in Bara has imposed a curfew throughout the district for a week starting Tuesday. Chief District Officer Rudra Prasad Pandit said the security personnel on Tuesday seized 11 tractors, 5 trucks, 22 motorcycles for defying the curfew order.

    Dharan saw a majority of locals defying the lockdown. Post Photo

    In Province 1, one of the major cities, Dharan, saw a majority of locals defying the lockdown on the first day following which the sub-metropolis has decided to tighten security from Wednesday. Tilak Rai, mayor of the sub-metropolis, said locals were seen frequenting market areas and the traffic on the roads was still high. “The citizens have managed foodstuff for a week; most were out to shop today. That’s why we are going to close all shops even those selling food grains, vegetables, and meat items Wednesday onwards,” said Rai, adding that they will coordinate with Dharan Business of Commerce and Industry and local administration to start home delivery services, if necessary. “The locals should be sensible; it’s their health at risk,” he said.

    Dil Kumar Giri, the ward chairman of the sub-metropolis, said there are more than six people, who came to Dharan from various countries in the last 14 days. “The ones who came to Dharan a couple of weeks back are also not self-isolating. We are preparing to send them into quarantine,” said Giri.

    On Tuesday, a meeting held in presence of officials from the Area Administration Office, Area Police Office and Corona Rapid Response Committee in Dharan Sub Metropolis decided to close all shops except pharmacies.

    Dhundiraj Neupane, Deputy Superintendent of Police, said police will take action against anyone found operating shops and driving vehicles on the roads and keep them in custody, if need be. Neupane said, “Police impounded 160 motorcycles and 55 tempos in Dharan on Tuesday. We briefly detained them and released them on condition of adhering to the lockdown.”

    Bajhang saw a considerable footfall on Tuesday with many members of the public, shopkeepers, and small businesses defying the order. Post Photo

    The first day of the lockdown in Bajhang in Sudurpaschim province was similar to that in Dharan. Bajhang saw a considerable footfall on Tuesday with many members of the public, shopkeepers, and small businesses defying the order. The movement of vehicles didn’t close either.

    Ashok Malla, a health worker in Chainpur, the district headquarters, said that the “hubris” of the people to defy the lockdown poses a serious threat to public health. “If the situation persists, the district will be exposed to considerably high risk,” he said. “Many are coming out of self-isolation and even the police are struggling to control the situation.”

    Meanwhile, black marketing is proliferating in the district by the admission of Chief District Officer Umesh Pandey himself. Shopkeepers are selling a Rs10 surgical mask at price as high as Rs50. Locals also complain about the rise in the price of vegetables. “We are contacting the shopkeepers and drugstore owners and asking to stop the practice,” Pandey said.

    Meanwhile, health workers in the district are complaining about the lack of masks and security gears. Sarita Nepali, an ANM at the Kailash Health Post in Jayaprithvi Municipality, said that the post has seen a rise in the patients with probable symptoms. “While many have recently returned from India, we are exposed to risk while dealing with the patients,” she said. “And we don’t have enough security gears and masks. It’s very risky.”

    Beni, the district headquarters of Myagdi, in Gandaki province saw the locals coming out to the chowks, apparently negligent of the weeklong lockdown. Vehicles charted without restriction too. “By defying the orders, people are playing with their own health,” said Gyannath Dhakal, Chief District Officer of Myagdi. “We will come up with stern order in the days to come.”

    Nepal has so far reported two cases of Covid-19; one of them has been cured. The country has shut its borders with both China and India.

    (Reporting contributions by Santosh Singh in Dhanusha, Abdhesh Kumar Jha in Saptari, Laxmi Sah in Bara, Pradeep Menyangbo in Sunsari, Shankar Acharya in Parsa, Basanta Pratap Singh in Bajhang and Ghanshyam Khadka in Myagdi.)