National Testing Guideline is “sure to bring” COVID-19 disaster

Published On: June 6, 2020 01:19 PM NPT By: Ashim Neupane

As per the guideline, asymptomatic patients will be released from quarantine facilities without being tested

KATHMANDU: While the government has released a National Testing Guideline for COVID-19 in contrary to the recommendation of the World Health Organization to “Test, Test and Test”, epidemiologists have slammed the new guideline, saying “it is surely going to bring a landslide of COVID-19 cases” in Nepal in no time.

In the new guideline released a few days ago, the government has adopted policies which reduce the number of COVID-19 testing. As per the guideline, one must have acute respiratory illness (fever and cough or fever and shortness of breath) to undergo COVID-19 testing. 

“The guideline released by the government is total nonsense. How can the government even think of not testing asymptomatic patients when almost everyone infected with the disease in the country is only showing mild symptoms or no symptoms at all? The new guideline will take the number of COVID-19 cases to a new peak every day,” an epidemiologist at a government hospital in Kathmandu, told Republica Online on condition of anonymity.

“In Nepal, apart from those who succumbed to the COVID-19 infection; patients have shown mild or no symptoms. This means, more than 95 percent of patients are asymptomatic. So, testing only those with symptoms – fever and breathing difficulty – will help spread COVID-19 infection in no time,” said the doctor, questioning the government’s response to  COVID-19.

Likewise, Dr Anup Subedi, a specialist in infectious diseases, said that the new guideline released by the government is unscientific. “It can bring a big crisis in the country,” Dr Subedi tweeted.

The government has also created a protocol under which asymptomatic persons will be released from quarantine facilities without testing. “The COVID-19 asymptomatic patients will be discharged from the isolation wards without testing. Also, symptomatic patients showing no symptoms for three consecutive days will be discharged from the hospital,” according to the new guideline.

According to Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, an epidemiologist, releasing asymptomatic persons from quarantine facilities without testing will create a big problem. “As quarantine facilities are not up to the standard, releasing asymptomatic persons will help spread the COVID-19 infection at the community level,” he said.

Dr Pun gave an example of how releasing asymptomatic persons without testing will create a problem. “Suppose five persons have been kept in the same room. And one of the roommates is infected. They share the same washroom and come to each other’s contact. The roommates may get infected any day. Suppose roommates get infected on the 10th day in a quarantine facility. As they don’t show any symptoms, they will be released after 14 days in a quarantine facility. Those getting the infection in a quarantine facility may develop symptoms after going home. By that time, the infected already transfers COVID-19 to his/her family members.”

“So this is certainly going to increase the number of COVID-19 infections,” said Dr Pun.

Even an official at the health ministry slammed the new guideline released by the government. “The new guideline shows how seriously the government is battling COVID-19. Even the aides of Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal know that the number of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients is high in Nepal. But there has always been a misconception among the experts at the ministry that asymptomatic patients will not spread the infection,” said the official, adding that the guideline is surely increasing COVID-19 infections in the country.

Likewise, Sameer Mani Dixit, a public health expert said that foreign-returnees are kept at quarantine facilities to be tested for COVID-19. “The new guideline shows the seriousness of the government. The number of coronavirus cases is surely increasing in Nepal,” Dr Dixit said, asking, if the government will take the responsibility of the imminent “COVID-19 disaster” in Nepal?

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