The Lalitpur Metropolitan City has started distributing free masks and conducting awareness programmes in crowded areas as precautionary measures against spread of COVID-19 ahead of the upcoming Tihar festival.

The metropolitan has mobilised its city police force to monitor whether people are wearing masks and practicing social distancing when they are out and about.

The chief of the implementation division of Lalitpur Metropolitan City, Sitaram Hachhethu, said, “We have formed six groups comprising city police personnel to monitor people in crowded areas. We plan on making it mandatory for people to wear mask.”

Though the Ministry of Home Affairs had notified all 77 district administration offices in July to take strict action against people disobeying health safety protocols, the order hasn’t been properly implemented despite cases of coronavirus surging at an alarming rate.

According to Hachhethu, the city police distributed surgical masks to 200 people on the first day of the drive.

“This program is also a part of building friendly relationships with the public. We found more people are aware of wearing masks than we had expected,” he said.

According to Deyi Gurung, the COVID-19 focal person at the city, a total of 5,442 people have been infected with coronavirus in the city while 3,861 have already recovered from the infection till date. So far the metropolitan city has reported 35 deaths.

Although Kathmandu Metropolitan City has emerged as a hotspot for Covid-19 with 23,968 positive cases and 147 deaths (as of Saturday), the city does not have any plans to monitor the movement of people and enforce health safety protocols in crowded areas.

Meanwhile, spokesperson for the Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Ishwor Man Dongal, said that a drive similar to the one run by Lalitpur was impossible to conduct in Kathmandu.
“Now, people need to be conscious of their safety on their own. We have been disseminating this message through different media,” said Dongal.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly emphasised the importance of wearing face mask, maintaining social distance, and washing hands in preventing transmission of the virus.