The 19-year-old Nepali student boarded a Qatar Airways flight in Paris on Monday night, and after a brief transit in Doha, landed in Kathmandu on QR652 on Tuesday morning at 10:10AM.
At home, she showed no symptoms but within a few days started feeling unwell and had herself examined at the National Public Health Laboratory on Sunday 22 March. The test came positive, and she was immediately admitted into the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku where she is now.
The Nepali’s roommate in Paris who had also flown back with her up to Doha was diagnosed with COVID-19 when she reached Vietnam.
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Health Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal called a press conference at short notice, attended by throngs of reporters (pictured above), which itself violated the government’s own guideline of not allowing assembly of more than 50 people.
Dhakal said the student’s family members have all been tested and are in isolation. Health officials said they have also tracked down friends and relatives who had come in contact with the student and have taken nose and throat swabs, and confined them to self-isolation as well.
However, Dhakal refused to disclose if passengers seated around the student on both flights, the airport officials and driver from the airport had been traced and contacted. QR650 on 17 March had 158 passengers and 12 crew.
“We are trying to track them down and notify them to be tested,” Minister Dhakal said. However health ministry officials disclosed privately that the government had not taken any action yet to inform the airline about her flights, get her seat number on both flights. Passengers on the Paris-Doha flight have by now flown to various parts of the world, and the ones from the Doha-Kathmandu flight have fanned out across Nepal.
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Information technology expert Rajib Subba says the government should use all the data sources available through geolocation on the mobile telephone network and other methods to contact trace those who could be infected.
Subba said: “Nepal has the human resources to make tracking apps like South Korea or Singapore which could help in containing the pandemic.”