Sudurpaschim labs not utilised to their full extentThe province’s four labs have the capacity to test over 4,000 swab samples a day. But only 1,000 samples are being collected.
Sudurpaschim Province has four laboratories in operation to test swab samples for Covid-19. However, the province is unable to utilise the labs to their full extent.
Laboratories in Doti District Hospital, Dadeldhura Hospital, Livestock Disease Investigation Laboratory in Dhangadhi and Seti Zonal Hospital have the capacity to test 1,000 swab samples each on a daily basis. But only about 1,000 samples are being collected from the province a day.
“We have the capacity to test more than 4,000 swab samples from four labs in a day. But Sudurpaschim is testing only 1,000 samples a day,” said Dr Gunaraj Awasthi, director at the Provincial Health Directorate.
According to Awasthi, the province has been unable to collect more swab samples, as authorities could not expand the contact tracing of Covid-19 suspects.
“The virus has already reached the community transmission level. Contact tracing is the only thing that can be done to contain the spread of coronavirus,” Awasthi said. “But authorities have not been able to expand contact tracing in affected areas.”
Coronavirus has spread at the community level, as the government failed to take necessary steps to contain the virus, said Dr Laxmiraj Pathak, former director general at the Health Division.
“The government could not effectively work to contain the virus during the nationwide lockdown and when prohibitory orders were in place. Authorities should have expedited contact tracing, sealed areas with a high number of Covid-19 patients and expanded PCR testing,” said Pathak. “But the government did not come up with a concrete plan to contain the virus.”
Authorities, however, say they have been facing difficulties in contact tracing, as people are not forthcoming with the needed information.
“Those individuals who have come in contact with Covid-19 patients should come forward for PCR testing. But instead they are trying to hide from authorities,” said Laxmi Upadhayay, chief at the health section of Dhangadhi Sub Metropolis. “Even those infected with Covid-19 do not wish to come in contact with the local unit. A few days ago, Dhangadhi sub-metropolis had to deploy its employees for a week just to search for two Covid-19 patients.”
Another reason for fewer swab collections these days is due to the decrease in the number of returnees, said Narendra Karki, chief at the Health Division in the Ministry of Social Development in Sudurpaschim Province.
“There are fewer individuals in quarantine facilities these days as the number of returnees from India has significantly declined,” he said.
The data of the Provincial Health Directorate showed that 72,476 swab samples have been collected for PCR testing in Sudurpaschim so far. Until now, Dadeldhura Hospital has collected 15,023 swab samples, the two labs in Dhangadhi have combinedly collected 38,579 swab samples and Doti Hospital has collected 2,372 swab samples, the record showed.
According to the Provincial Health Directorate, PCR machines are also being installed in Mahakali Hospital in Kanchanpur, the District Hospital in Bajhang and at Kamal bazaar in Achham.
“These machines will come into operation within mid-October. Thereafter, we can test up to 7,000 swabs on a daily basis,” said Awasthi.
According to the data of the Ministry of Social Development in Sudurpaschim Province, 6,261 swab samples tested positive for coronavirus in the province as of Saturday.
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.