Health experts warn against lowering guard
KATHMANDU, DECEMBER 14
For the past one week, Nepal has been witnessing a steady decline in the number of new cases of coronavirus, but experts have cautioned people against lowering their guard against the respiratory contagion.
They say it will be a fallacy to assume that the disease has reached its peak in the country, as the falling numbers may be due to several other reasons.
The first and foremost is that Nepal is not testing enough. Not long ago, up to 20,000 PCR tests were being conducted daily, but that number has come down steadily and today less than 6,000 tests were conducted across Nepal.
Assistant Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population Samir Kumar Adhikari said the government was not deliberately testing fewer people, but many infected people were not coming for getting their tests done.
He said many people still believed that PCR tests were not free and that’s why they were not coming for tests and even infected people were staying in isolation in their homes.
“Time has not come yet to conclude that the pandemic is under control,” Adhikari added. He said one positive thing was that test positivity rate had come down from as high as 30 per cent to 15 per cent.
Anup Subedee, a senior consultant (general medicine and infectious disease) at HAMS said, “Many people who cannot afford tests in private hospitals don’t want to go to Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital as they have to wait there for hours to get tested. They are choosing to isolate themselves in their homes and apartments.”
“Almost 2,000 people who are coming for tests daily are those who want to travel and are required to produce PCR test results. Another category of people who are coming for tests are those who had contracted the disease earlier and had been in isolation for a fortnight or so. They are likely to test negative.
These are two reasons why test positivity rate has come down,” added Subedee.
He said even the test positivity rate of 15 per cent was above the World Health Organisation standard. “This means we need to stay alert and follow all safety protocols,” he said.
Public Health Expert Sujan Babu Marhatta blamed fewer tests on ineffective contact tracing. “In most cases, the government should be able to test 10 to 20 contacts of one infected person, but it has not been doing so,” he said.
Marhatta said even infected people were staying in home isolation without getting tested for COVID-19 because they felt that they would not get any better treatment in government designated hospitals or isolation centres.