After a month of mobility restrictions, the toughest lockdown in the world has been in force since Friday in the Kathmandu Valley. Authorities banned leaving their homes and closed grocery stores. Food supplies are running out for the poorest who have lost their jobs.
Before 7 am on Thursday, the streets of Tokha, the northern district of Kathmandu, were crowded despite the month-long quarantine. “We only have until 9 am, because from Friday even grocery stores will be closed! My God, you have to hurry, ”50-year-old Rupa Sharma tells PAP, accelerating his pace.
From the end of April, a milder version of the lockdown was in force in the Kathmandu Valley, where 2.5 million people live - grocery stores were open until 10am and from 5pm to 7pm.
"As if the coronavirus did not infect in the morning and for two hours in the afternoon," says Mrs. Sharma, laughing. “Then the virus started infecting also in the evening, so you could only shop until 10 am. Now, apparently, he has taken to grocery stores, ”he adds, adding that from Friday only until 9 am you can buy only vegetables, dairy products and meat.
"There was an amazing crowd in the grocery store, man on man, you had to push your elbows out," adds Rupa's neighbor, Mana Regmi. “It's a nightmare. I don't understand the logic behind these new rules, ”he says, spreading his hands.
Kathmandu district chief Kali Prasad Parajuli told The Kathmandu Post on Monday that the new regulations are expected to reduce crowds in the city's streets during the second wave of coronavirus.
"I have never seen such crowds as on Thursday in a SalesBerry supermarket," says Magda Jungowska, whose foundation White Grain has been providing material aid to Nepalese people in Kathmandu every day for several weeks. "People rushed to the stores like they did in the US last year with empty shelves," describes the panic following the announcement of tightening the lockdown rules.
"It's absurd. Limiting shopping hours and closing grocery stores as a way to deal with the virus is pure absurd ”- says Dr. Vivek Raunyar from the Grande Hospital in the Tokha district for PAP. "Because of these recipes, people flock to the stores every day for two hours in the morning, where it's easy to get infected," he adds.
The Indian variant of the virus present in Nepal now has the second highest reproduction rate in the world, with 35 percent. the tests carried out are positive. Hospitals lack beds, oxygen and medication.
“The new regulations prohibit leaving the house for morning and evening walks. I am concerned about our physical and mental health, ”says Dr. Raunyar, who doubts the harmfulness of being outdoors and getting infected while walking.
"Indeed, the ban on leaving the house is the strictest in the world during the coronavirus epidemic" - a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Health admits in an interview with PAP. “But we don't have any other tools. We have no vaccines, no medical equipment, and no doctors. Maybe this way we can stop the virus, he wonders.
"After the lockdown was introduced, I immediately lost my job," says Gita Nepali, who worked as a housekeeper in the Tokha district. “We no longer have the money to eat. I really don't know what to do, ”she adds.
A 28-year-old woman tells how in 2020 a nationwide quarantine lasted 4 months and it was also impossible to go to the streets, and she and all her neighbors lost their jobs. The help of the Nepalese authorities did not reach the Gita's family and they had to fend for themselves. "I barely paid my debts, and now we've had a lockdown again for a month," he adds.
"Last year, we distributed 6 kg of food packages, which lasted a week," explains Jimi Oostrum, a Dutchman who has lived in Kathmandu for almost a decade, during a virtual meeting of the organization "Alliance for Nepal". "People were so weakened by hunger that they couldn't carry the 6 kg packages," he says.
In 2020, Oostrum with a group of Nepalese volunteers reached 8,000 with parcels. families, i.e. at least 24 thousand people. "If lockdown goes on, we'll be in that position again," he adds.
This year, the Dutchman joined forces with Nicole Thakuri, who has been running a school in the Tokha district for 25 years. Jimi and Nicole, who have supplied the poorest 500 families in northern Kathmandu over the past week, are considering reducing their parcel content. “I agree with you, Jimi, the package should also include tea and soap,” says Thakuri.
“This is not yet the moment to reduce them. Food packages should have something extra about them. A little dignity and humanity, ”he explains. "Maybe we'll have to cut them down later," he concludes.
From Kathmandu, Paweł Skawiński (PAP)