Rapid test kits to be tested for efficacy and if found acceptable, rolled out for mass testingThe government currently has around 75,000 rapid test kits imported from China but they haven’t been used due to concerns about their quality.
Though the government said on Saturday that it would conduct mass testing for Covid-19 in three districts, it could not do so on Sunday, as authorities spent the whole day on building teams and orientation classes.
A Cabinet meeting on Saturday decided to conduct mass tests in these three districts— two from Sudurpaschim province and one from Gandaki Province, where the majority of Covid-19 cases have been reported.
Currently, the government has 75,000 rapid diagnostic test kits imported last week from China, but they have yet to be deployed for use as there have been major concerns regarding the validity of their results.
Earlier on Sunday, Dr Khem Karki, advisor to Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, told the Post that the test kits would be tested for efficacy and if found acceptable, they would be rolled out for mass testing in Kailali, Kanchanpur and Baglung.
“We have formed a team comprising staff from the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, National Public Health Laboratory and Nepal Health Research Council,” said Dr Bikash Devkota, spokesperson for the Health Ministry during a press briefing on Sunday.
Officials, however, did not say when they will start validity tests of the test kits and large-scale testing in the three districts.
All people residing in quarantine of Kailali and Kanchanpur and Baglung, family members and neighbours of infected people will be tested through the rapid diagnostic kits.
If the rapid test shows positive results, a polymerase chain reaction test will be performed in the specimens to ascertain the result, according to Devkota.
Dr Megnath Dhimal, chief researcher at the Nepal Health Research Council, said that his office had furnished a list of rapid diagnostic test kits available in the market for coronavirus testing.
“We have furnished the name of test kits manufactured by five different companies including one bought by the government from China last week,” said Dhimal. “We will perform validity tests from test kits of all five companies and give the report. It is up to the Health Ministry to decide, which one should be used.”
It will take time to perform mass testing if test kits purchased by the government are found to be of substandard quality, as the government has to procure test kits of other companies, which gives reliable results.
According to an official at the Health Ministry, blood samples from both Covid-19 positive and negative patients, who were tested using the polymerase chain reaction method, will be retested using a few dozen rapid testing kits to ascertain whether they provide the same result.
Nepal on Saturday reported three more Covid-19 cases in Kailali and Kanchanpur, including the first case of local transmission, prompting the government to step up mass testing.
The Covid-19 tally has now reached nine in Nepal.
The story has been updated to include quotes from health ministry spokesperson.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 30, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 213 countries and infected more than 6,029,950 people with 366,802 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 173,491 with 4,980 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 64,028 confirmed cases with 1,317 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 1401 cases with six deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.