COVID test: Question mark over efficacy of labs outside capital

Dhangadi, April 16

The efficacy of the newly setup labs at COVID-dedicated health facilities outside Kathmandu has come under cloud as positive results of the polymerase chain reaction tests need to be reconfirmed by the central lab in Kathmandu.

Two youths from West Rukum, who recently had returned from India, tested positive for COVID-19 at Seti Provincial Hospital Dhangadi yesterday, using PCR method. But, Karnali Provincial Hospital was asked to recollect their samples to reconfirm the results in Kathmandu.

With imposition of the lockdown, throat and nasal swabs of 39 people were sent for PCR test to Dhangadi. Of the 39 samples, two tested positive yesterday. Karnali Minister of Social Development Dal Rawal confirmed that fresh samples of the duo were sent to the National Public Health Laboratory in Kathmandu for confirmation today.

Youths who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have been put in isolation  at Chaurhajari Community Hospital in Rukum.

This is not the first time that a lab outside Kathmandu has had to send samples of a COVID-positive patient to NPHL for reconfirmation. On April 3, the swab of a man who had returned from India tested positive for COVID–19 using PCR method at the Gandaki Provincial Hospital in Pokhara. But, the swab tested negative at the NPHL two days later.

Officials at the Ministry of Health and Population said they had to reconfirm the tests as they could not completely rely on the newly established lab in Pokhara.

Khem Bahadur Karki, health adviser to Minister of Health and Population, told THT that laboratories were following standard protocol by sending COVID-positive results to NPHL, which is the reference laboratory.

When new laboratories are set up, it is standard practice to reconfirm positive results through the reference laboratory for a few months, added Karki. He said borderline results also required to be reconfirmed. Karki said competence of health professionals testing samples in laboratories outside Kathmandu could also be the reason why the government was trying to reconfirm