Delay in arrival of test reports risks community transmission of coronavirus in Gorkha districtIt takes more than a week for test results to arrive, as the district has to send swab samples to Pokhara for testing.
Health workers and the people’s representatives in Gorkha are concerned about the possible risk of community transmission of Covid-19 due to the delay in the arrival of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) reports.
Gorkha does not have its own PCR lab. Health workers say it takes more than a week for PCR test reports to arrive, as the collected swabs from the district are sent to the Province Public Health Laboratory in Pokhara for testing.
“We’re having a difficult time containing the virus spread mainly due to the delay in the release of PCR test reports. Covid-19 suspects are roaming freely in their villages while waiting for their test reports. They are unknowingly infecting others as well,” said Hom Bahadur Rana, the chairman of Gandaki Rural Municipality in Gorkha district. “Those who were in contact with the suspects can also easily transmit the virus to others while waiting for the test results to be released.”
According to him, 43 swab samples of Covid-19 suspects at Ward No 6, 7 and 8 of the local unit were collected and sent for testing on May 14. The test reports are yet to arrive.
Local units in the district have no alternative but to do an antigen test owing to the delay in the arrival of PCR test reports.
“We have to intensify testing through antigen kits so that we can take prompt action to isolate Covid-19-infected individuals and control the virus from spreading,” said Rana. According to him, Gandaki Rural Municipality has purchased 150 antigen test kits and requested the District Health Office and the provincial government to provide them with additional kits.
“We sent 43 swab samples on May 14 and another 88 samples on May 17 but the reports are yet to come,” said Beli Shrestha, the health unit chief of Gandaki Rural Municipality. “The people whose swabs have been collected for PCR tests frequently ask us for their reports. When we call the provincial laboratory to inquire about test reports, it says it has tremendous pressure and cannot complete the work on time. Hence, we have started testing Covid-19 suspects by using antigen kits.”
The situation of other local units in the district is also similar. Palungtar Municipality is awaiting the PCR reports of 326 swab samples collected six days ago.
“It is very difficult to isolate Covid-19 patients and contact trace suspects in the absence of PCR reports. We have prioritised testing using antigen kits for now,” said Dipendra Giri, the Covid-19 focal person at the municipality. “The municipal office has initiated the process to procure more antigen kits as the 50 kits provided by the district health office have already been used.”
According to the District Health Office, the PCR reports of 1,379 swab samples have yet to arrive at the district as of Saturday afternoon.
“We have been informed that the provincial lab is under immense pressure due to the rising cases of Covid-19 brought by the second wave of the pandemic. The health office has urged the local units to conduct antigen tests of symptomatic patients,” said Narajung Thakuri, chief at the district health office.
The delay in receiving PCR test reports has not only affected health workers but the suspects of Covid-19 as well.
“My swab sample was collected six days ago but the report is yet to come. Health workers say the report will come shortly whenever we call them,” said a 37-year-old Covid-19 suspect from Palungtar Municipality-6. “My family and neighbours are worried and anxious. I don’t know how long we have to wait for the report.”
Keeping in view the high risk of community transmission of the virus, the meeting of the District Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre held on Friday urged all 10 local units in Gorkha to intensify testing by using antigen kits.
“The meeting decided to demand for more antigen kits from the federal and the provincial governments. The centre has asked the local units to purchase antigen kits in their own initiatives for the time being,” said Harka Roka, an officer at the District Administration Office in Gorkha.
There are a total of 778 active Covid-19 cases in Gorkha.