Epidemiology and Disease Control Division and Kathmandu Metropolitan City have started conducting community-based mass antigen testing for the coronavirus diseases.

Authorities have started random tests of people living around areas highly susceptible to coronavirus such as vegetable markets where people gather in large numbers.

Authorities today conducted 309 antigen tests of people and vendors at Kalimati Vegetable and Fruit Bazar.

Twelve of those tested showed positive results.

Medical technologist of EDCD Dhan Prasad Poudyal said that this positive rate should be considered high as those who tested positive did not show any symptom of the virus and neither were they identified through the contract tracing process.

"Any COVID-19 case confirmed through community-based tests should be considered alarming as even those testing positive would normally be aware about its condition. That's why we are planning to conduct more antigen tests in the coming days," Poudyal said.

Normally people opt to check for COVID virus only when they feel they have contracted the virus or when they come into contact with those suffering from the virus.

The EDCD is planning to conduct at least 10,000 antigen tests inside the valley, including 7,000 tests within the Kathmandu district itself.

Antigen test is a quicker method of identifying virus in the body through nasal swabs. The result of the antigen test can come within 30 minutes. But, people in general have not shown interest in the antigen test provided free by the government. Also, it is said that the antigen test yields result if any person has contracted the virus within one or two days. Normally, PCR test does not yield correct result if a person has contracted the virus in less than five days.

In December last year, the government claimed it had conducted 300,000 antigen tests across the country and over 30,000 tests inside the valley. Despite the government's effort, hardly 30,000 people had participated the campaign. Later, the plan was postponed indefinitely on the ground that time was needed to spread the message about the importance of community testing.

KMC's COVID focal person Gyan Bahadur Oli said that a team of nine medical persons would be deployed in all major places of the metropolis to conduct tests for the next five days. He also said the local government has been conducting at least 1,000 free COVID-19 tests per day through contract tracing.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 19, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.