Nepal | January 16, 2021

Apex court stays COVID quarantine guideline

Makes PCR test mandatory before discharging those showing no symptom from quarantines

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The Supreme Court has issued an interim order, asking the government not to implement a provision of National Testing Guidelines for COVID-19 that allows people to leave quarantines after 14 days without undergoing polymerase chain reaction test if they are asymptomatic.

A division bench of justices Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Tanka Bahadur Moktan directed the Ministry of Health and Population not to implement Section 6 of the guidelines. It states that if a person doesn’t test positive for the virus using Rapid Diagnostic Test while being admitted to a quarantine centre and doesn’t show any symptom of COVID-19 after staying in quarantine for 14 days, s/he could be discharged if they test negative in RDT.

Petitioners have stated that majority of the COVID-19 patients in the country are asymptomatic.

They argued that many people had tested positive for the virus even if RDT showed no antibodies.

Even the World Health Organisation has stated that negative RDT is highly inaccurate, say petitioners.

“It is sheer carelessness on the part of the government to send home asymptomatic people who test negative in antibody tests when it is common knowledge that RDT negative tests are highly inaccurate and majority of COV- ID-19 patients are asymptomatic,” said advocate Santosh Bhandari, one of the petitioners.

The guidelines were issued by the MoHP on June 4 and were circulated to hospitals and quarantine centres two days later.

The apex court observed that going by the number of patients in quarantine and the government’s testing capacity, it didn’t seem impossible to re-examine them using PCR method.

It added that right to health care and right to dignified life were fundamental rights of citizens as enshrined in the constitution.

It concluded that the guideline to send people home without proper treatment was unconstitutional. The order was issued responding to a public interest litigation filed by advocates Santosh Bhandari, Prakriti Khadka, Laxmi (Nani) Thapa, Santosh Bhandari, Sujan Nepal, Nawaraj Pandey and Kitinath Sharma Poudel.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 24, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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