Nepal | January 18, 2021

Government to ramp up antigen test once again

Himalayan News Service
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The government, which had halted the COVID-19 antigen test around hotspots in the valley two weeks ago, is once again preparing to increase the tests up to five lakh within a week.

The government had launched the antigen testing programme for a few days starting November 30. The much hyped antigen test, said to be useful for mass testing, had received very less positive response from the public.

Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, which launched the programme with support of the Ministry of Health and Population and in collaboration with the valley’s local governments, had decided to drop the programme, stating it needed more time for analysis as to what went wrong during its execution.

The EDCD, however, has once again decided to ramp up antigen testing without analysing the exact reason why people didn’t show interest in antigen testing. EDCD had, during the pilot project, expected to carry out 5,000 antigen tests.

However, only 1,500 people had participated in the mass testing drive.

Dr Basudev Pandey, head of EDCD, said, “It’s not that people are against the antigen test, but their mindset with regard to the PCR test has changed.” Further, he said people would only undergo testing for COVID-19 if they started showing strong symptoms, which led to only a few people opting for the test.

The EDCD had largely overlooked the fact that results of the antigen test are not always correct. Only eight per cent of the total 1,500 people who underwent the antigen test from hotspot areas during the previous test had tested positive.

While many of those whose results were negative in the antigen test later tested positive in the PCR test.

Antigen test is a quicker method for identifying the virus in the body through nasal swabs.

The result of antigen test can come within 30 minutes, and are taken to be ideal for mass testing.

International flights and communities still require PCR test report to travel from one country to another.

Dr Pandey, however, stressed that it was time to change the attitude of people towards the antigen test. He said the quality of antigen test is as per the requirements of the WHO and other quality supervising internal agencies.

The new tests will largely cover areas in the valley and other hotspots where there are more than 200 cases. “We will now ramp of contact tracing and collect swab samples of people if their family members or close relatives test positive for the virus,” Dr Pandey said.

Further, he informed that if the antigen test showed negative result for people showing strong coronavirus symptoms, they will be tested again under the PCR method.

A version of this article appears in print on December 17, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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