Accurate Testing by Madhuri Mahato

Photo: Madhuri Mahato/

Photo: Madhuri Mahato/

A local in Birgunj went to the Narayani Hospital in the city to get tested for the COVID-19 last week. He was given the rapid test (RDT) and was relieved to be tested negative. A few days later, he got tested again and was shocked to be tested positive for the virus. The only difference between the first and the second test was that the second was taken using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). ⁣

But Dr Uday Narayan Singh was not surprised by the different results. “PCR test is the more reliable test, RDT cannot test for the COVID-19 infection,” says Dr Singh. This is a pattern at the Narayani Hospital which the medical superintendent Madan Kumar Upadhyaya has also seen, “Those who tested negative in the RDT test at the hospital so far have also been tested positive after PCR,” he says adding, “This shows a critical error in the public health system which could put us at a greater risk.”⁣

This week, youth groups in Birgunj came out on the streets demanding reliable COVID-19 tests from the government. “The World Health Organization (WHO), the epidemiologists and the public health experts have all said that RDT is not reliable, why is the government still continuing to promote RDT?” asks Shailee Chaudhary, 26 of Birgunj. ⁣

Meanwhile, the health inspector Jaymod Thakur at the District Health Office in Parsa is strictly following the WHO guideline. “This is a pandemic, safety of the public is a priority and we absolutely cannot put our health workers at risk,” says Thakur. The street protests and pressure from public health workers are having an impact– h the district health office in Parsa has now switched completely to PCR tests. “The federal government wants us to continue to use RDT, but we are not doing that,” says Thakur. There is an urgent need to expand the PCR testing campaign in Parsa and Vijay Sarawagi, the Mayor of Birgunj doing just that. Mayor Sarawagi has procured a PCR machine and raised more than Rs 20 million from the state and the federal government to COVID-19 testing.⁣

Photo/Text: Madhuri Mahato @mmhisimmy

Copy Edit: Nisha Rai @nishastoryteller

Edit: Mallika Aryal @mikaness

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