Despite a spike in cases, authorities are reducing tests and contact tracing in ValleyMore than 800 coronavirus-infected people are out of contact, authorities say.
Although the Ministry of Health and Population has not officially admitted to the community transmission of Covid-19, it has reduced the number of tests and contact tracing, which is generally done after the community transmission of the infection.
“It seems that the authorities have been following the World Health Organization’s protocol, which says that testing and contact tracing will be ineffective after the infection reaches communities,”Dr Kiran Pandey, consultant physician at Hams Hospital, told the Post. “Even if the cases have reached the communities, we should not lessen tests and stop working for contact tracing. It is only the way to contain the infection.”
The UN health agency said that community transmission is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive cases through sentinel samples (routine systematic testing of respiratory samples from established laboratories.)
“By reducing the tests, officials might have been thinking to spend the saved money on treatment,”said Pandey. “But it will be too costly, if we think to do so. We cannot afford to do it.”
The Health Ministry has been performing around 10,000 tests a day, which is not sufficient, as per the risk and daily cases numbers.
In recent times, of the total samples being tested daily, around 15 percent of the samples are testing positive. Earlier, only around six percent of the samples tested positive. Despite the raise in the infection rate, authorities have not increased the test numbers.
Officials at the Health Ministry claimed that the government has been performing the tests as per the need.
“I cannot tell you the government’s policy about the test but we have to tell the people that the test is not the solution,” Dr Sameer Adhikari, joint-spokesperson at the Health Ministry, told the Post. “China has overcome the pandemic by focussing on quarantine. We too should convince people to remain in quarantine and isolation.”
Adhikari said the risk of getting infected while going to get polymerase chain reaction tests is high since there are a large number of people wanting to get tested.
“In such cases results may be negative and this increases the risk of spread,” said Adhikari.
Public health experts have been saying that the virus has spread in communities long ago. They also stressed the need to increase the test numbers and to make contact tracing effective.
“I have been urging the authorities to increase the test since the beginning,” Dr Baburam Marasini, former director at the Epidemiology and disease control Division, told the Post. “This government does not take the suggestion positively.”
With the government lifting most of the restrictions placed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the number of new cases have almost doubled in the Kathmandu Valley. Of 1,207 new cases detected on Saturday 724 were from Valley. In the last 24 hours , 1,573 new cases have been detected with 809 in the Valley, which is more than 50 percent of the total. Doctors say that the increase in the new cases in the Valley was the result of apathy of the authorities concerned in contact tracing and testing.
Meanwhile, the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division , said that over 700 infected people in the Valley are out of contact.
“Over 500 infected people in Kathmandu around 200 in Lalitpur and over 100 people in Bhaktapur are out of contact,”an official at the division told the Post on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media. “We are struggling to arrange beds for the serious or symptomatic patients and locate contacts of new cases. We even do not have time to follow up on the old cases.”
Gyan Bahadur Oli, Covid-19 focal person at the Kathmandu metropolitan City, said that around 10 infected people are found to be out of contact daily, which has rendered the contact tracking job difficult.
“We do not know what is going to happen since 10 or so infected people are going out of contact daily,”Oli told the Post. “Some people, who give swab samples for tests, register incomplete contact numbers, give false addresses and do not receive the call.”
If health workers serving at the Urban Health Division of the Kathmandu metropolis failed to contact infected people, they inform the district health office, which then passes the information to the provincial health directorate. The directorate in turn informs the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division.
Of the total cases in the Valley, the majority are in home isolation. Doctors say chances of spreading infection will be high from people staying in home isolation if they are not monitored regularly.
“Around 70 to 80 percent of the infected people are in home isolation in the Valley,” Uttam Koirala, a public health officer at the division, told the Post. “Locals are responsible to assess and monitor if there is a condition to stay in home isolation.”
Oli, Covid-19 focal person at the Kathmandu metropolis, said that all people staying in home isolation do not have separate facilities and are not following safety protocols.
According to the Health Ministry, 6,095 people are in home isolation as of Sunday in Province 3 and the majority of them are in the Valley.