COVID-19 testing capacity to be doubled
The government is to double the Coronavirus testing capacity following the demand for the same from the States and districts. The current capacity in a total of 10 laboratories doing the test is 3,000 tests per day across the country.
This will be expanded through installation, upgrading and addition of the Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kits in government-owned as well as private-run health institutions, according to public health advisor at the Ministry of Health and Population Dr Khem Karki. Presently, tests are taking place in 10 locations outside Kathmandu.
The Pathology Advisory Committee of the Ministry is carrying out a study to add more machines to those locations as well. The Advisory Committee led by Dr Gunaraj Lohani is carrying out study and consultation on establishment of laboratories, developing protocol, human resource management and quality of goods.
The testing capacity will be expanded through the use of PCR kits that are available in the country but not yet used, said member of the committee Pushpa Raj Khanal. Some of the machines had been lying idle with the agriculture and veterinary departments after being used during the outbreak of bird flu. Furthermore, the Ministry is working to set up the laboratories in a permanent manner so that samples will no longer have to be sent to Kathmandu for any such viral examination.
The price of the PCR machine is Rs 5 million while it costs Rs 40 million to 50 million to set up the lab. Similarly, it costs Rs 13,500 to carry out sample test of a person at the lab. The government has been bearing all costs of sample test of coronavirus. National Public Health Laboratory in Kathmandu is the central lab while labs are in operation for sample test at seven states as well as in Bir Hospital, Dhulikhel Hospital and Chitwan Hospital.
Sample test of 300 people could be carried out daily in these places except Surkhet and Butwal, said Khanal. The Ministry has already sent 10,000 viral transport medium (VTM) kits to different districts to bring swab after collecting it but only 2,200 samples has been brought to lab so far. Genetic Scientist of Bir Hospital, Balram Gautam, said that there are only around 100 lab scientists for test in Nepal and labs could be brought into operation by imparting training to other human resources.
The first test of sample for coronavirus carried outside Kathmandu Valley is being verified with a second test at the central lab in Teku. As of today, 2,366 tests including 401 outside Kathmandu valley have been carried out. Of them, only nine have tested positive so far. Among those who tested positive to coronavirus, one returned home after recovery while eight are under treatment. —