Darchula lacks Covid-19 testing facilityThe district does not have a PCR testing facility and now it is in short supply of antigen test kits, health officials say.
Darchula has to rely on antigen tests to determine the rate of infection in the district since none of its health institutions has PCR machines. Health officials in the district say they are now facing a shortage of antigen test kits, which stands to hamper the testing rate amid a surge of Covid-19 cases.
According to the District Health Office in Darchula, the district is reporting a low testing rate in the past few days due to the shortage of antigen kits.
“Out of 950 kits provided by the Sudurpaschim provincial government last month, we only have around 100 kits left,” said Jayaraj Bhatta, the public health officer of the District Health Office in Darchula.
According to him, the District Health Office distributes testing kits to the local units from its own stock. “We don’t have enough testing kits left,” said Bhatta.
Birendraraj Bhatta, the coronavirus focal person at the District Health Office, says swab sample collection of Covid-19 suspects is also on hold since they have to send the samples to Kanchanpur or Dadeldhura-based laboratories.
“We can’t rely entirely on PCR tests either because the test reports do not come on time,” he said. “That’s why we need more antigen kits. We need to increase our testing capacity in the hilly areas.”
Since the main supplier of testing kits to the local unit itself is running short of supply, testing at the local levels has also taken a hit.
“The District Health Office has been sending us testing kits so far. They sent us 25 testing kits, of which we only have three left now,” said Dilip Mahara, chief at the health section of Duhu Rural Municipality. “The shortage has greatly affected our testing capacity. We haven’t even been able to run tests on Covid-19 suspects. The rural municipality does not have the budget to purchase the kits.”
According to the District Health Office, 25 to 100 testing kits were distributed to various local units in Darchula last month. “Antigen kits provided by the Provincial Health Directorate were used in the contact tracing of Covid-19 patients at the District Hospital in Darchula and Pulghat border point,” said Bhatta.
Meanwhile, some of the local units in Darchula have started collecting swab samples for PCR tests given the current shortage of antigen testing kits. But the delay in the delivery of PCR reports is hampering the local units’ efforts to contain the virus.
On May 5, Marma Rural Municipality had sent some swab samples to Dadeldhura and Kanchanpur-based laboratories for PCR tests. The rural municipality obtained swab reports only on Monday.
“The federal and provincial governments should provide us with a PCR machine to test swab samples in Darchula. These days, fewer swab samples are being sent to laboratories outside the district, as it takes at least a week to obtain swab reports,” said Dammardatta Bhatta, information officer at the District Hospital in Darchula. “Our need of the hour is antigen kits.”
Since mid-April, six people have died and 342 others tested positive for Covid-19 in Darchula, according to the records at the District Health Office. Among the infected, 43 have recovered, the data of the District Health Office showed.