Kanchanpur border point faces shortage of antigen testing kitsAround 700 to 800 people are returning home from Gadda Chauki border point on a daily basis. However, only a tiny fraction of them are being tested for Covid-19, health officials say.
As India is gripped by a devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the flow of Nepali returnees through Sudurpaschim-based Gadda Chauki border point has been on a steady rise.
Around 700 to 800 people are returning home from Gadda Chauki border point on a daily basis. However, only a tiny fraction of them are being tested for Covid-19. Even when most returnees have travel history from Indian cities where coronavirus cases are exploding, they are being sent home directly without having to undergo any tests or stay in quarantine.
The health desk established at the border point allows travellers to cross into Nepal with only a body temperature check. On Thursday alone, 703 returnees entered Nepal from the border point.
“It’s crowded here but there are no health protocols being followed. The health desk only did a cursory check on us,” said Ramdatta Joshi of Baitadi, who was returning from Delhi through Gadda Chauki on Thursday. “The chance of getting infected in this crowded place is high.”
Antigen tests were carried out on only 51 out of 703 returnees at the border on Thursday. Among them, five were found infected with Covid-19.
“There is a shortage of antigen test kits at the border. Until Wednesday, we were running antigen tests on all returnees but now we don’t have enough test kits left,” said Aakash Barudi, in charge of the health desk at Gadda Chauki. “Thursday onwards, we will perform tests on only those people who are on their way to Kanchanpur where the border point lies. Individual district administration should carry out antigen tests on those entering their districts.”
According to him, until Wednesday up to 250 antigen tests were being conducted on a daily basis. Among them, around 30 to 35 returnees were found infected with Covid-19 in a day.
The authorities only recently started deploying vehicles to transport returnees to their home districts across the Sudurpaschim Province. Until Wednesday, people returning through the border point had to travel to Mahendranagar and then onto their villages on public vehicles.
According to Uma Chaturbedi, superintendent of Police in Kanchanpur, buses and other vehicles have started carrying returnees from no-man’s land of Gadda Chauki border point to their respective districts.
The shortage of antigen kits is not only limited to the border point. Local units in various districts of Sudurpaschim Province are also dealing with the same problem. Narendra Kunwar, acting chief at the District Health Office in Kanchanpur, said, “There’s shortage of antigen kits due to limited supply. Various local units are demanding for antigen kits. We sent a limited stock of antigen kits to Gadda Chauki and Mahakali Hospital due to short supply.”
According to him, the health office had suggested that the local units make 10-day home quarantine mandatory for those entering their villages.
“But most people are not found self-isolating after reaching their villages. The local units have not been monitoring the situation in villages,” said Kunwar. “None of the local units in Kanchanpur have managed quarantines in the district.”
The Covid-19 infection has now spread in communities, says Narendra Joshi, chief at the health section of Bhimdatta Municipality.
“The number of Covid-19 cases has shot up in our municipality,” he said. “Bhimdatta Municipality is turning into a hotspot for the coronavirus. A majority of the infected in Kanchanpur are from Bhimdatta Municipality.”
A prohibitory order has been imposed in the municipality to limit the spread of the virus. “The municipality has also been preparing to set up a quarantine facility,” he said.
Out of 45 PCR tests conducted on Thursday, 39 individuals from Bhimdatta tested positive, according to the data of the District Health Office.
Kanchanpur reported 71 news cases of Covid-19 on Thursday alone, according to the District Health Office. There are 821 active cases in the district, according to the data of the Office.
Since the start of the second wave of the pandemic, eight individuals have died of coronavirus in Mahakali Hospital of Kanchanpur district. Dr Govinda Rokaya, the corona focal person at the hospital, said, “Three Covid-19 infected died only on Thursday. They were below 36 years of age.”
According to him, currently, there are 60 Covid-19 patients at the hospital. “Among them, three are in critical condition.”