People who returned from abroad before lockdown seek Covid-19 test voluntarilyLocal government officials, neighbours pressing returnees to get tested even after spending months at home.
The number of people seeking tests for Covid-19 has risen significantly after three people who returned from abroad tested positive for the disease six weeks after returning home.
People who returned to Nepal from disease-hit countries have been contacting their local government officials after three returnees from the UK tested positive when they took rapid diagnostic tests, officials said.
“Most of the people seeking coronavirus tests are those who have returned from the Middle-East, Europe and India,” Dr Sagar Rajbhandari, director at the Sukraraj Hospital, told the Post. “News that people tested positive even six weeks after returning home has alarmed people.”
The Epidemiology and Disease Control Division also said that local governments have been seeking more test kits, as more people are demanding that they be tested.
“We have also found people panicking about the possibility of contracting the disease,” Dr Basudev Pandey, director at the division, told the Post. “Some people, who returned months ago, are seeking tests under pressure from their neighbours and local government officials.”
The Ministry of Health and Population said authorities have performed 15,800 Covid-19 tests as of Wednesday. While 6,871 of the tests were performed using the polymerase chain reaction method, 8,929 were done with rapid diagnostic test kits.
Rapid diagnostic tests, which give results in a matter of minutes, look for antibodies in blood that the human body produces in response to a virus infection. The PCR method, which takes at least a day to come up with results, is used to look for signs of the virus in the patient’s nasal swab. According to scientists, a recovered patient can still test positive with the rapid diagnostic test. Cases of the disease are confirmed only after a PCR test is conducted on the suspect’s swab.
The Kathmandu-based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, which started testing using the PCR method, said it collected the nasal and throat swabs of 59 people on Wednesday.
Rapid diagnostic tests have been launched in 63 districts as of Wednesday, according to Dr Bikash Devkota, spokesperson for the Health Ministry. “A lot of districts have been reporting to us about the positive results from rapid diagnostic tests. But we need to perform the polymerase chain reaction test to confirm the result.”
Meanwhile, officials from Epidemiology and Disease Control division and Kageshwori- Manohara Municipality on Wednesday tested 298 people living in ‘A’ block of the Pepsicola-based Sun City Apartment, where the three returnees from the UK live.
“All reports were negative,” Laxmi Koirala, health coordinator of Kageshwori Manohara Municipality, told the Post. “We have sent the nasal and throat swabs of two men, who worked as domestic helps for the family, to the National Public Health Laboratory for a polymerase chain reaction test.”
The three people had tested positive as the municipality tested 63 people who had recently returned from abroad, according to Koirala. The health ministry said that one of the three people, who were in isolation at Patan Hospital, tested negative when tested using the PCR method.
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.