Govt starts testing passengers arriving from UK for new virus variant

Published On: December 28, 2020 11:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Dec 28: At a time when the new coronavirus variant has rattled the United Kingdom (UK), and created panic all around the globe, the government of Nepal has started preparations to investigate if the new strain of the virus has entered in Nepal.

Before Nepal imposed travel restrictions to and from the UK owing to the severe contagion of new strain, at least 277 passengers – Nepali nationals and a few tourists – have arrived to Nepal from the European country. “We are testing those who have come to Nepal from the UK. As of now, nobody has tested positive for COVID-19,” Dr Samir Adhikari, who is the assistant spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population.

As the new strain of virus is believed to be 70 percent more infectious, more than 40 countries have already imposed travel and flight restrictions with the United Kingdom in view of possible spread of new virus.

As the new strain of virus has created panic, the government of Nepal also imposed travel restrictions to and from the UK owing to the severe contagion of a new strain of the novel coronavirus discovered in the European country. The government has said that entry restriction will be effective until further notice.

“If passengers coming from the UK test positive for COVID-19, the Health Ministry will send their samples for genetic sequencing. The government will send the sample to foreign laboratories which have collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO),” said Adhikari, adding that there are two methods for gene sequencing.

In the meantime, state-owned National Public Health Laboratory said that there is no reagent for gene sequencing. However, Adhikari says that bringing reagent is not a big deal.

“Even first case of COVID-19 was tested positive in a laboratory at Hong Kong. After the case, reagent was brought to Nepal,” said Dr Adhikari.

In view of the spread of new strain of the novel coronavirus, the government has asked the people arriving in Nepal from the UK between December 16 and 22 to stay at hotel quarantine for ten days.

Meanwhile, Dr Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health expert, said that the new strain of the virus is spreading fast in the world. “The virus is highly transferrable, and it has already been reported in several countries of the world. We cannot say that there is no new strain of coronavirus in Nepal,” he said.

Dixit also said that gene sequencing can be carried out through two methods. “Laboratories in Nepal can test the new strain of virus. However, the cost of testing can be 10 times expensive than the PCR testing,” he said.

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