Kathmandu, March 23
A 19-year-old Nepali student, who had returned from France via Qatar, has tested positive for COVID-19, a disease caused by coronavirus, making her the second person in Nepal to contract the disease.
The student, whose identity has not been disclosed for privacy reasons, arrived in Nepal on March 17, according to Minister of Health and Population Bhanubhakta Dhakal.
She had visited Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital on Friday for a coronavirus test after her Vietnamese friend, who had travelled with her from France to Doha, tested positive for COVID-19. The Vietnamese disclosed her health condition to the Nepali student on Thursday.
“After getting this information, one of the patient’s relatives called us and we advised her to bring the teenager to the hospital for tests,” said STIDH Director Sagar Kumar Rajbhandari. “She had come to the hospital with her father in his car. We then took her throat swab and sent it to the National Public Health Laboratory in Teku the same day. She was then sent home.”
Since the laboratory was closed on Saturday, her throat swab was tested on Sunday, which confirmed coronavirus infection.
Surprisingly, the lab did not immediately inform the hospital about the student’s test result. It instead informed the Ministry of Health and Population.
“We were informed about her test result by the health ministry,” said Rajbhandari. “We then contacted her and sent an ambulance to bring her to the hospital. Our driver was wearing personal protective equipment when she was transported to the hospital. She is now in the isolation ward.”
The student, who should have gone under self-quarantine the day she returned from France, did so only after she returned home after providing the throat sample. “She had stayed alone in her room wearing gloves and mask. She was aware of precautions that needed to be taken. Her kin are in the medical profession,” Rajbhandari said.
The government, however, has not disclosed her flight information and places she visited since she arrived in Nepal. But sources confirmed that she had taken Qatar Airways to fly from Doha to Kathmandu. There were 205 passengers in that flight, according to Raj Kumar Chhetri, deputy director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
“We will track all those who were in that flight,” said minister Dhakal. The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division under the Department of Health Services has deployed a team to trace the contacts made by the student since her arrival in Nepal.
“We have been informed that she had come into contact with six people in her house, including her family members,” Rajbhandari said. All six of them have been placed under home quarantine, according to Dhakal.
Many countries have started disclosing all the information on movement of coronavirus patients, including their flight numbers if they have taken one without disclosing their names, to help the public take necessary precautions. But Nepal is yet to follow suit.
“We’ll conduct a follow up test of her throat swab after five days or a week and see whether she is still infected,” said STIDH Spokesperson Anup Bastola said.
Nepal reported first case of COVID-19 on January 23 after a 32-year-old man who had returned from Wuhan, China, tested positive.
A version of this article appears in print on March 24, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.