Shortage of supplementary equipment affects coronavirus testing in KarnaliThe recently purchased PCR machines can process a maximum of 96 samples at a time but the available VTMs and processing kits will not be sufficient to run the maximum number of tests.
One real-time polymerase chain reaction machine each was delivered to Karnali Academy of Health Sciences in Jumla and the Provincial Hospital in Birendranagar last week. The purchase of these two machines was expected to expedite Covid-19 tests in Karnali but the short supply of medical tools and supplementary equipment required to collect swabs and process lab testings has slowed the testing process, according to the Provincial Health Directorate in Surkhet.
According to Om Acharya, laboratory coordinator at the Provincial Health Directorate, the province has only 40 pieces of Viral Transport Media (VTM), which is used to collect swabs, and around 200 PCR processing kits.
“Both the recently purchased machines can process a maximum of 96 samples at a time but the available VTMs and processing kits will not be sufficient to run the maximum number of tests,” said Acharya.
The provincial government and the Karnali Academy of Health Sciences in Jumla had procured the real-time polymerase chain reaction machine each to expedite coronavirus testing. The provincial executive bought a machine belonging to Tribhuvan University while the academy purchased one from China.
Acharya said one of the machines was sent to Jumla on Sunday and another to the Birendranagar-based Provincial Hospital on Thursday. The machine was installed at the Provincial Hospital on Monday, whereas the academy plans to bring the machine into operation from Wednesday.
The directorate had sent 40 VTM kits along with the machine, but they will not be sufficient for mass testing, according to the academy.
“We need around 500 VTM and processing kits in the first phase” said Bishworaj Kafle, registrar at the academy.
The federal government had sent a PCR machine and 1,000 VTM kits on April 1 to the Karnali Province.
“We have asked the federal government for an additional 1,000 VTM and as many processing kits, but they are yet to be supplied,” said Rita Bhandari, director at the Provincial Health Directorate. According to her, the directorate has also asked the centre for 10,000 rapid diagnostic testing kits after it used all the 5,000 kits provided by the federal government. But the centre provided just 3,000 RDT kits, she informed.
“We have completed RDT and PCR tests of those who returned from India and other countries. Testing should be prioritised since we still have people from outside entering the province,” said Bhandari. According to her, rapid tests of 5,000 people and PCR tests of 926 people have been conducted in the province so far.
According to the data available at the District Police Office in Surkhet, a total of 7,055 people entered Karnali Province through the Babai entry point between Thursday and Saturday last week.
“A large number of people enter the province every day to return to their hometowns in Kalikot, Jumla, Dailekh, Jajarkot, Salyan, Dolpa, Mugu, Surkhet and Rukum (West),” said Police Inspector Gopal Rayamajhi.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 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 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 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.