PCR machine lies unused for lack of supportive equipment in BhimdattaOver hundred swabs collected in Bhimdatta Municipality are sent to Dhangadhi-based laboratory for PCR testing.
Bhimdatta Municipality in Kanchanpur had purchased a PCR machine for coronavirus testing almost two months ago. But the machine has not been put to use since there is no supportive equipment to run the machine.
Himal Bahadur Chand, spokesperson at the municipality, said the local unit has also not been able to set up a separate laboratory.
“The machine has not been handed over to Mahakali Hospital. It has been sitting idle for the last two months,” he said. “The provincial government did not help us manage a lab or an equipment.”
The machine was purchased at Rs 3.8 million to test swab samples in Mahakali Hospital but the hospital has not been able to use the machine yet. Over a hundred swabs collected in Bhimdatta Municipality are sent to Dhangadhi-based laboratory for PCR testing. In Sudurpaschim Province, PCR testing is currently being performed in the laboratories in Dhangadhi, Kailali, Dadeldhura, Baitadi and Bajhang districts.
Dr Hari Shrestha, medical superintendent at Mahakali Hospital, said, “The machine purchased by the municipality can test 96 swab samples at once. It needs additional parts, including automated RNA extraction, centrifuge and bio-safety cabinet. The hospital administration has invited a tender for the purchase of additional equipment and necessary chemicals.”
“We will receive the additional parts and chemicals within a week. The hospital is also constructing a biosafety level laboratory to install the machine,” Shrestha said. “We should be able to start PCR tests in a month from now.”
The District Coordination Committee in Kanchanpur and all its local units have agreed to manage funds for coronavirus testing in the district, but they have not disclosed the amount, according to Shrestha.
So far, 848 individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 in Kanchanpur. Among them, 86 are active cases. Health experts said that the number of infected will rise in coming days due to the increase in people’s movement during Dashain and Tihar festivals.
Siddharaj Bhatta, the coronavirus focal person in the District Health Office in Kanchanpur, said, “People without any travel history have also started showing symptoms of Covid-19. With the festive season ahead, public movement is expected to increase. It is becoming increasingly important for the local governments to increase their PCR testing capacity.”
Meanwhile, the laboratory services in Mahakali Hospital have been closed from Monday evening to Tuesday, as two health staff working at the hospital’s lab tested positive for coronavirus on Monday.
Narad Bhatta, medical recorder at the hospital, said, “Lab services have been closed for a day. We are going to sanitise the lab and resume lab services from Wednesday.”
On Sunday, the hospital had also closed all its services, except emergency, for a day. The hospital had sanitised all its wards after a patient in its ICU tested positive for Covid-19.
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.