Safe Return by Parwat Portel

Photo: Parwat Portel/

Over 7,000 Nepalis stranded in Naxalbari, Bagdogra, Siliguri and other cities of India due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown are slowly making their way home. As they arrive, they go through the camps set up by the Nepal Army and the Armed Police Force where the first round of screening is done. There are seven tents, one for each province. Each returnee is sent to their respective province tent and then given the rapid diagnostic tests (RDT).⁣⁣
Despite evidence of RDT being ineffective in diagnosing the COVID-19 virus, the returnees are only given polymerase chain reaction tests (PCR) when their RDT test results show positive. Epidemiologists say PCR test is the only way to detect infection early as PCR test starts showing results between day four and day 15. They argue that RDT does not detect the virus early and may give either false-negative or false-positive results. “RDT can only test for antibodies that are already present, to test COVID-19 infection, we need PCR tests,” says Haricharan Sapkota, lab technician at Mechinagar Health Section in Jhapa. However, Jhapa Health Offices have only provided RDT kits and have given strict instructions not to do PCR tests unless people show positive on RDT tests. “Our hands are tied, we do what we have been told,” says Sapkota.⁣⁣
Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population reported 30th death due to COVID-19 this week.⁣⁣
Photo/Text: Parwat Portel @parwatportel7
Edits: Mallika Aryal @mikaness

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