KATHMANDU, June 15: Although statistics of the COVID-19 cases released by the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) show that the number of coronavirus cases is declining daily, stakeholders have maintained that this is not the case.
Public Health Specialist of Dhulikhel Hospital, Dr Biraj Karmacharya said that although the COVID infection was declining, it was not decreasing at the rate recorded by the MoHP. “The infection rate in the community is still high," he said.
According to Dr Karmacharya, the infection rate is recorded lower in the community due to the low number of tests. He said, “There is no contact tracing at the moment and not many testings are taking place at the level of community. In this case, it is not possible to say that the infection rate has decreased.”
Dr Karmacharya suggested that the exact rate of infection can be found out only when the scope of testing is increased. For this, the government should test about 50,000 samples daily- three times more than now, he said.
According to Coordinator of Shukraraj Tropical and Infectious Diseases Hospital’s Research Department Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, the number of patients with COVID-19 symptoms is decreasing in the Kathmandu Valley. But he also stressed that it would not be possible to say exactly without definite contact tracing. "Even now, only people with symptoms are coming for testing, but those who were in close contact have not been tested yet," he said.
Dr Pun said that the actual situation could be ascertained by testing antibodies in the community as it was declining after the acute infection like last year. “Any infection decreases after a certain period of time, but antibody testing should be done to find out how much it has gone down,” he said.
Officials at the Contact Tracing Branch of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) said there was not as much contact tracing this year as there was in the last year. They stressed that a comprehensive test was needed in the community as the risk was still high in 14 districts of the country and the community should be tested in the valley as well.
According to officials, the number of patients with symptoms is still high in Imadol, Madhyapur Thimi, Budhanilkantha and Changunarayan municipalities of the Kathmandu Valley. But there has been no contact tracing in these places. An employee of the department said, “The government has not paid attention to the tests after vaccines were received in grant.”
Head of the EDCD Dr Krishna Prasad Poudel said that the infection rate has witnessed a sharp decline in proportion to the test, but the level of risk is still high. "Even if it is reduced now, there is a risk that the infection will spread as soon as the prohibitory orders are lifted," he said.
Dr Karmacharya argued that the government should now expand the scope of the COVID-19 testing in the community and provide isolation facilities to the infected persons who do not have a place to stay isolated at home. "Preparations for treatment and testing should be kept intact so that a fresh wave of COVID-19 can be controlled," he added.