Saptari in short supply of Rapid Diagnostic Test kitsAlthough a few days ago the provincial government took the decision to send a Polymerase Chain Reaction machine to the district to conduct tests, the district-based authorities are yet to fix a location to set up a PCR machine in Saptari.
Abdesh Kumar Jha
The Saptari district health authority has run short of rapid diagnostic test kits for surveillance of suspected coronavirus patients.
The District Health Office said on Thursday that it will no longer be conducting rapid antibody tests on people entering the district.
The district had received 960 test kits and 160 units of them were issued to Gajendra Narayan Singh Hospital in Rajbiraj. The District Health Office has so far performed 760 rapid tests on individuals staying in various quarantine facilities. The hospital, meanwhile, had run 120 tests as of Wednesday.
“The whole district has only 30 rapid test kits left. We will have to halt the rapid tests from Friday,” said Duniyalal Yadav, chief at the District Health Office. “We have already informed the provincial government about the shortage.”
The district has been seeing a huge influx of people coming for tests. With a limited number of kits, the health office has decided to halt the test for the time being.
Migrant workers from Qatar, Malaysia, Dubai and Saudi Arabia before the lockdown as well as those people who were stuck in Kathmandu are returning in droves, but the district health office has no resources to test them for possible infection.
“We have Gulf returnees coming home and we need to perform rapid tests on all of them to check for infection,” Yadav said.
On Wednesday alone, more than 100 individuals entered Saptari and among them 30 were sent to Gajendra Narayan Singh Hospital for rapid testing.
Dr Chumanlal Das, the medical superintendent at the hospital, said all 30 tests results were negative.
“The remaining others have been sent to quarantine facilities in their respective local units,” said Das.
Meanwhile, the District Health Office is also running short of other essential medical gear such as gowns, masks and gloves.
“We will soon run out of sanitisers and personal protective equipment too,” said Yadav.
Although the provincial government had recently announced to send a Polymerase Chain Reaction machine to Saptari to conduct tests, the local administration is yet to decide where to set up the machine.
“The discussions are ongoing to set up a lab. The possible locations are the District Health Office building, Gajendra Narayan Singh Hospital, Gajendra Narayan Singh Industrial Area or Sai Krishna Medical College,” said Yadav.
For the time being, the swab samples collected in Saptari are being sent to Dharan-based BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences for PCR tests.
On Wednesday, a team of Women, Children and Social Justice Committee of the provincial assembly inspected Gajendra Narayan Singh Hospital, District Health Office and Bhardaha Hospital and took stock of the situation.
Anul Rain, chairman of the committee, said they had inspected the health institutions to assess the situation.
“We have been informed about the shortage of rapid test kits and other essential medical equipment. The committee will direct the provincial government to immediately fulfil the requirements of test kits and medical equipment,” said Rain.
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.