KATHMANDU, Feb 20: All the 175 Nepalis evacuated from China’s Hubei province and quarantined at Kharipati in Bhaktapur since Sunday morning have tested negative for the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Ministry of Health and Population said on Wednesday citing initial test results.
The evacuees will be tested again on the 14th day.
At a press conference organized at the ministry, Health Secretary Khagaraj Baral said that no Nepali nationals repatriated from China have been found infected by COVID-19. “The samples tested for COVID-19 infection turned out negative,” Baral said.
Nose and throat swabs of all the evacuees had been taken on Sunday after they arrived at Kharipati.
According to Secretary Baral, the swab test reports provided by the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) have turned out negative. The swabs were tested on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
The laboratory had borrowed reagents for comprehensive tests of the virus from Kathmandu-based Centre for Molecular Dynamics, Nepal.
On Sunday morning, 175 Nepali nationals, mostly students, were brought back home from China and they have been kept at a quarantine facility at Kharipati for 14 days.
Although 185 Nepali nationals living in Wuhan and other adjoining cities in Hubei Province—the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak—had expressed desire to return home, Chinese authorities barred six of them from boarding the evacuation flight sent by Nepal government, while four others decided to stay back.
According to spokesperson at the Ministry of Health Mahendra Prasad Shrestha, 210 COVID-19 suspects had undergone medical tests in the past one month in Nepal. Of them, one person had tested positive and the person returned home after being cured.
On January 24, Nepal had confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus. Keeping in view the threat it poses to the health of ordinary public, Nepal has suspended its flights to and from China and set up health desk at Tribhuvan International Airport to screen incoming passengers.
Similarly, the authorities have also launched COVID-19 awareness campaign in major tourist destinations across the country. The government has also stepped up vigilance at major customs points to ensure that no carriers of the coronavirus strain enter the country.
The virus has already claimed over 2000 lives and left over 74,000 others infected across China. As the epidemic shows no sign of stopping, almost all countries have evacuated their citizens from China and kept them in quarantine for 14 days as per the WHO standards and released them after they are tested negative for coronavirus.