Two of the three patients who were admitted to Patan Hospital on Monday have been tested positive for the coronavirus. They were from the same family. They had returned home from the United Kingdom a month ago and were staying at an apartment in Pepsicola. They are said to have been tested as per the decision of the government to test all the individuals arriving in Nepal after mid-March. The couple came to Nepal about a month back but we have come to know about their status now. This signals that we are not testing. Our health facilities do not have enough kits for testing and even that some of those who returned to the country from abroad do not really care about testing for coronavirus. Our war on coronavirus must, therefore, be focused on testing.
The government on Tuesday extended the lockdown until April 27. A meeting of the Council of Ministers took the decision to this effect as per the recommendation of the High-Level COVID- 19 prevention and control committee. Given the rising number of infections in Nepal and neighboring India, lockdown extension was inevitable. But what did we do during three weeks of lockdown? We need to look back on what we did and where we failed to chart the course for the next two weeks. Admit it or not, our initial response after the lockdown was not robust enough. We started the process of procuring the medicines and setting up quarantine and isolation facilities after the lockdown started, while we should have completed that before the lockdown. And then we should have done the rapid testing in a really rapid speed. That did not happen. As a matter of fact, the process of tracing and testing has taken momentum only in the last week or ten days. The result of this is for us all to see: More cases are being reported and with each case, the danger of the possibility of further infection is looming.
Thus the government needs to utilize these two weeks for contact tracing of the persons who returned to Nepal from foreign countries including the persons they lived with and interacted with and test them. Besides, the government should also run mobile health camps at the community level for the purpose of testing people. The more we expand the scope of testing the better position we will be in to find the infected people and prevent the contagion. If we do not speed up tracing, testing, isolation and quarantine measures, no matter how long we extend the lockdown, nothing good is going to come out of it. Needless to say, this is going to be an arduous task for the unprepared health system like ours. But there is no escape from it either. Common Nepalis have the tendency of not going to the health facilities when they experience minor symptoms of coronavirus. This tendency could also cost us dearly. The next two weeks are going to be the life and death challenges for Nepal. We hope the government is dead serious about it.