125 who flew with COVID-19 patient traced

Kathmandu, March 24

The government has tracked down the whereabouts of 125 people who shared the aircraft with the 19-year-old student, who has tested positive for COVID-19, and asked them to self-quarantine for 14 days. The government has not formally disclosed information of the flight that the coronavirus infected student took from Doha to Kathmandu on March 17. But police said she flew Qatar Airways (Flight No QR 652) with 158 passengers on board.

“We have collected personal details, including names and addresses, of all the passengers, who travelled with the COVID-19 patient, from the Department of Immigration. But so far we have been able to contact only 125 of them,” said Deputy Inspector General and Spokesperson for Nepal Police Shailesh Thapa Kshetri. “Contacts were established with these 125 passengers with the support of local police and administration.”

“They have been asked to immediately contact the nearest hospital if they show symptoms of coronavirus disease while under quarantine,” said Kshetri.

Nepal reported the first case of COVID-19 on January 23 after a 32-year-old man, who had returned from Wuhan, China, tested positive. He has since recovered. The 19-year-old girl is the second confirmed COVID-19 patient in Nepal. She had travelled to Nepal from France via Qatar and tested positive on Sunday.

“We have already tracked down people who have come into the girl’s contact,” said Basudev Pandey, director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the Department of Health Services. “They are all fine now but if they show any symptom of coronavirus disease we will collect their throat swab and conduct necessary tests,” added Pandey,

Since Nepal confirmed the second coronavirus case, the government has started testing blood samples of all people above the age of 60 who show symptoms akin to COVID-19. Globally, the virus has brutally attacked elderly people and those with weak immune system.

Currently, all coronavirus tests are being performed at National Public Health Laboratory in Teku. The lab can perform only 60 COVID-19 tests per day.

The government today announced that BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan, Pokhara Institute of Health Sciences in Pokhara, and Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalgunj would soon start performing COVID-19 tests.

“The Ministry of Health and Population will make necessary arrangements to supply adequate equipment and train human resources for the purpose,” the High Level Coordination Committee for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19, led by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokhrel, said in a statement. Earlier, the government was also mulling over roping in private laboratories to perform the tests. “But we need a Biosafety Level-3 or similar laboratory to conduct COVID-19 tests which the private sector lacks,” said NPHL Information Officer Rajesh Kumar Gupta.

The government has also initiated the process of purchasing additional kits to ramp up COVID-19 tests.