Rapid Covid-19 diagnostic tests to be launched in Baglung, Kanchanpur and KailaliThe decision was taken after four people from the districts tested positive for the disease.
The government has decided to launch large-scale rapid diagnostic tests in three districts where Covid-19 cases have been confirmed.
The decision, according to finance and communication Minister Yubraj Khatiwada, who is also the government spokesperson, was taken on Saturday as four people from Baglung, Kanchanpur and Kailali tested positive for Covid-19 in the last three days.
“We want to ensure that all those who have come in contact with Covid-19 patients are tested for the virus,” said Khatiwada while making public the Cabinet’s decisions on the state-owned Nepal Television. “The government will make all necessary arrangements for the tests.”
The government decision comes as public health experts said large-scale testing was the only way to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading in the community, and rapid test kits, if found to be working correctly, should be used to test as many people as possible.
A polymerase chain reaction test requires a nasopharyngeal swab, which only specially trained personnel can extract. But a rapid test only requires a blood sample, which any health care professional should be able to draw.
Three more Covid-19 cases were reported on Saturday, all in Sudurpaschim Province, with one case of local transmission, raising alarm among authorities.
According to the Ministry of Health, three patients who tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday are: a 21-year-old man from Kailali, who recently returned from Mumbai; a 41-year-old man from Kanchanpur who returned from Uttarakhand; and a 34-year-old woman from Kailali, who is a relative of a person who had earlier tested positive for the disease.
According to an official at the Provincial Health Directorate of Sudurpaschim Province, the 34-year-old woman is the sister-in-law of the 34-year-old man who had returned from the United Arab Emirates and tested positive for Covid-19.
The Covid-19 tally now has reached nine, and half of them are from Sudurpaschim Province alone. On Thursday a 19-year old woman from Baglung had tested positive to the disease. Earlier, two women, one 19 years old and another 59 years old, from Baglung had tested positive for Covid-19.
Khatiwada said the Cabinet has also decided to enforce the lockdown more strictly, completely banning travel even between municipalities.
“The decision will be enforced in close coordination with the provincial and local governments,” he said.
Saturday’s Cabinet meeting, however, did not decide on extending the lockdown, which is to remain in force until April 7 midnight.
“The next Cabinet meeting will take necessary decisions [regarding the lockdown],” said Khatiwada.
The government first imposed a weeklong nationwide lockdown effective from March 24 only to extend it until April 7 midnight. But given the rising number of cases, it extended the lockdown until April 15 to contain the spread of the virus.
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.