Govt Should Test More Returnees: Experts

With the increase in the number of Nepali returnees from India, COVID-19 cases in Nepal have gone up sharply recently. In the past 17 days, more than 9,000 returnees have entered Nepal through different border points in Banke.
The District Administration has been screening the returnees for the coronavirus infection. At first, a returnee gets his/her temperature checked, and then his/her swab is sent to lab for COVID-19 test through the health desk set up there.
However, the locals have complained that the health desks are not operating effectively. They have demanded that the authorities increase tests, in addition to the regular screening.
The data made available by health officials at Banke administration shows that the health desks have screened only 6,204 out of more than 9,000 returnees.
Similarly, of those 6,204, only samples of 109 were sent to be tested for the virus.
“If such negligence on the part of the officials persists, our situation might be no different than that of India. If we are to prevent situation from going out of hand, authorities must conduct test of all returnees,” said Krishna Prasad Shrestha, Coordinator at Civil Society, Banke.
According to the officials, of the 109 samples, 10 were tested positive for the virus.
“Only the samples of those who have shown symptoms such as fever or cold during the screening are sent for COVID-19 test. Those tested positive are returnees from Maharashtra or Gujarat states,” said Tej Oli, COVID-19 focal person at Banke.
Though the authorities claim that they have been conducting health screening effectively, health experts and locals voice that the screening is lax. They argue that if things go on like this, the country has to pay a huge price for negligence.
“Test of 109 returnees from the total of 9, 000 is worrisome, to say the least. We must ensure that everyone is tested. This is a must to prevent the situation from becoming dire,” said Dr. Aasim Kidwai, senior physician at Nepalgunj Medical College.
The central government has recently provided 3,000 COVID-19 testing kits to the Banke District Administration, out of which 1,000 have been given to Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolitan City.
“We don’t need more kits for now. What we are asking from the higher authorities is that they help us in carrying out more tests,” said Dhirjung Shah, chief at Banke Health Office.
The Banke District COVID-19 Crisis Management Center has also stated that the open border and a large number of returnees have upped the risk of the pandemic. Nonetheless, they are making their best efforts to contain the pandemic.
The number of individuals tested positive for the pandemic at Bheri Hospital continues to rise. According to the hospital, 21 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Saturday alone.
There are recently 80 individuals receiving COVID-related treatment at the hospital.
“Among the 80 admitted patients, health condition of 27 is serious. They are recently placed under Intensive Care Unit. However, if the cases continue to rise, the hospital will be overwhelmed soon,” said Oli.