Nepal | November 26, 2020

Lack of kits at Nepal’s only testing centre hampering COVID-19 fight

Sabitri Dhakal
Share Now:

Kathmandu, March 18

The World Health Organisation has a simple message for countries trying to contain spread of coronavirus disease: Test, test, test.

“Test every suspected case. If they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in close contact with up to two days before they developed symptoms, and test those people too,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

But Nepal is doing just the opposite. It is turning away even those with symptoms of COVID-19, such as dry cough and fever.

Yesterday, Dr Sundar Mani Dixit, a senior medical doctor, told a public event that he had referred three of his patients with COVID-19 symptoms to Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital at Teku.

“But the hospital turned away those patients, who had returned from abroad, stating they had already crossed the 14-day limit (when the illness worsens). They were told test cannot be conducted (as their medical condition had not deteriorated),” Dr Dixit said.

Nepal so far is safe from coronavirus threat as there is no active case. But many are concerned about the prospect of a sudden jump in cases as in Iran, Italy and South Korea. What is also adding to nervousness is decision taken by the Indian state of Bihar, which shares border with Nepal. Bihar today declared COVID-19 an epidemic. Bihar so far has no coronavirus positive cases, but chances of exponential rise in cases in Nepal in the event of an outbreak in the Indian state cannot be ruled out.

“The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate,” said WHO head Ghebreyesus.

The only lab in Nepal that performs coronavirus tests is National Public Health Laboratory. But it only has reagents to test 1,500 samples. This has prompted the lab to confine its tests to those who have fever and at least one more symptom, especially of respiratory disease, such as cough or shortness of breath; those who have travelled to or are residents of a country or territory that has reported local transmission of COVID-19 during the 14-day period prior to
onset of the symptoms; or those who have been in close contact with probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. What’s more, people can perform coronavirus test only upon a doctor’s recommendation.

These testing criteria were developed on the basis of WHO’s surveillance case definition, according to NPHL.

As a result of these rigid testing criteria, NPHL has only conducted 512 coronavirus tests since the last week of January, at the rate of two to a maximum of seven tests per day.

“The number of tests should be increased as many people coming to Nepal from abroad have shown suspected symptoms. Rapid expansion in testing will help us diagnose the disease and prevent spread of the infection,” said Dr Anup Bastola, consultant tropical medicine and spokesperson for Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital.

Coronavirus tests should also be escalated as people who have tested positive for common flu are not being asked to perform COVID-19 test, according to NPHL Virologist Dr Shravan Kumar Mishra. Lately, many are suffering from common flu due to change in weather.

“These people should also undergo COVID-19 test because a person who has tested positive for common flu may also test positive for coronavirus,” said Dr Mishra.

The Ministry of Health and Population has said it is working on expanding coronavirus tests. “We have sought 5,000 reagents. The process of procuring them is under way,” said MoHP Spokesperson Dr Bikash Devkota.


A version of this article appears in print on March 19, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Relocated Arna gives birth to a calf in Chitwan National Park

CHITWAN: An Arna (wild water buffalo) also known as 'Bubalus arnee', gave birth to a calf on Monday in Chitwan. With this, the Chitwan National Park (CNP) now has five calves born to a herd of arnas relocated from Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR) and the Central Zoo. The calf was born two da Read More...

Nepal COVID-19 Update: 1948 new cases, 3140 recoveries and 28 fatalities recorded on Wednesday

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. READ ALSO: Kathmandu valley reports 835 fresh Covid-19 cases on Wednesday Till date, 1,690,509 tes Read More...

Men's national cricket team captain Gyanendra Malla tests positive for COVID-19.

KATHMANDU: The men's national cricket team captain Gyanendra Malla has tested positive for COVID-19, on Wednesday. A right-handed batsman, Malla, 30, took to social media to confirm that he had contracted the respiratory infection. "Despite opting maximum safety measures, I have been tested Co Read More...

The new height of Mt Everest to be revealed soon

KATHMANDU: The new height of Mount Chomolungma (Sagarmatha/Everest) will be announced soon. A meeting of the Council of Ministers held today agreed to the proposal of Ministry of Land Management to reveal the height of the world's highest peak. In May 2019, two government surveyors along w Read More...

Argentina soccer legend Maradona dies of heart attack

BUENOS AIRES, Nov 25  - Argentina soccer legend Diego Maradona, widely regarded as one of the game's greatest ever players, died of a heart attack on Wednesday, his lawyer said. Maradona, 60, had recently battled health issues and underwent emergency surgery for a subdural haematoma several week Read More...

Real leave Inter close to exit after Vidal sees red

MILAN: Real Madrid claimed a first-ever win at San Siro on Wednesday, beating Inter 2-0 in the Champions League after the Serie A side had midfielder Arturo Vidal sent off for dissent in the first half. Eden Hazard converted a seventh-minute penalty and Achraf Hakimi deflected Rodrygo's Read More...


New procedure for self-evaluation issued

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 25 The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has issued the ‘Local Level Institutional Capacity Self-evaluation Procedure-2020’ to identify strengths and weaknesses of local bodies by assessing their work procedures and achievements for the purpose of maki Read More...

Act now to address shadow pandemic of VAW, says WHO

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 25 Urgent action is needed across the WHO South-East Asia Region to strengthen efforts to protect women and girls from violence and to support their health needs amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said the World Health Organisation Regional Office for South-East Asia today. Read More...