KATHMANDU, Nov 2: As the government has decided not to bear the cost of PCR testing and COVID-19 treatment, a conflict has arisen between the local units and the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) over conducting PCR tests, resulting in delayed contact-tracing.
Following the government’s decision not to bear the cost of PCR tests of those who can afford treatment, the state-owned laboratory has started seeking relevant documents to test swab samples sent by the local units.
After the decision of the government, swab collection came to a halt in Mahalaxmi Municipality of Lalitpur district before the Dashain festival. “The municipality has halted contact tracing after the decision of the government. Following the decision, the state-owned laboratory started seeking documents from the local units to conduct testing,” said Rameshwar Shrestha, mayor of Mahalaxmi Municipality.
As contact-tracing is halted, at least 600 residents – who came in close contact of infected persons – are waiting for their tests to be done. “We have asked some residents, who can afford the cost, to visit private laboratories for testing. It is hard to arrange documents of residents in limited time. This has hit contact-tracing,” he said, adding that the NPHL doesn’t test the samples without receiving documents proving the residents can not afford PCR testing.
He further added that the decision of the government has hit contact-tracing. “Such decisions don’t help combat the pandemic, rather they increase transmissions in the community,” he said, “The document process is full of hassles.”
According to an official at Budhanilkantha Municipality, the state-owned laboratory doesn’t test the samples without documents. “In this time of pandemic, it is not easy for the municipality to produce documents of residents. Documentation process has made contact-tracing more difficult. We have been testing samples of our residents in private laboratories,” said the official.
Meanwhile, Runa Jha, director at the NPHL, said that the state-owned laboratory tests samples sent by the local units if it provides documents proving the residents can’t afford the test. “Earlier, we used to test all samples sent by the local units. We have been following the guidelines set by the government,” Jha said.
According to the guideline, the government is to provide free testing and treatment only to the poor, disabled, helpless, elderly and those in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19. Besides, the government has made it mandatory for those seeking free treatment of COVID-19 to carry identity cards with them. Frontline workers, elderly, disabled and helpless people should possess identity cards or recommendation letters from the authorities concerned to receive the free services.