The credibility of some hospital labs has been questioned after the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test reports of COVID-19 they issued were found to be false. The dubious test reports came to light after some air passengers with virus negative PCR reports tested positive upon being re-tested in the destination country. Actually this may not be the case related to the air passengers alone. There may be many other infected people moving around with virus negative reports. Such an anomaly must be checked given the serious and wider public health repercussions of the infected people freely making rounds in flights and other public transport. Rapid transmissions of the novel coronavirus exacerbated through the port of entry and the trans-border movement of people. Therefore, a crucial measure to prevent the virus spread involves the arrangement of tight screening at the border entry points and the port of entry of air and ship travel. It is a serious issue that some of the Nepali air travellers bearing negative COVID-19 PCR reports were found to be infected during the re-tests carried out after descending in the destination country.
According to a news report carried by this daily, destination countries like Hong Kong, Japan and United Arab Emirates have not only written to concerned Nepali authorities about the false PCR reports of the passengers but also suspended flights from Nepal. This development is going to harm Nepal’s image and raise serious question about the reliability of the country’s public health system. According the news report, Nepal has faced repeated flight suspension from Hong Kong regarding this issue. Five passengers flying to Hong Kong from Nepal on October 2 bearing virus negative PCR reports tested positive when they were re-tested in Hong Kong. Following this incident, the Hong Kong’s aviation administration suspended flights from Nepal for two weeks. But the story did not end there. Same anomaly resurfaced after Hong Kong lifted the suspension and the flights resumed. On October 19, the news report says, nine more air passengers who flew from Nepal with negative PCR reports, tested positive in Hong Kong. This resulted in the second round of flight ban from Nepal between October 22 and November 4.
Such incidents, sadly, did not come to an end. It continued for the third time and as a consequence, the Civil Aviation Department of Hong Kong wrote a letter to Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC). Hong Kong has banned flights from Nepal till November 25. Similarly, the Kathmandu-Narita flight has faced the same problem in Japan. Air passengers bearing COVID-19 negative reports were re-tested positive in Japan more than once. Narita Airport has also written to NAC and cautioned about such incidents. We can expect flight bans by Japan if such a discrepancy continues. Warning letters have also come from the UAE after some passengers in Kathmandu-Dubai flight bearing virus negative reports re-tested positive in the destination. There are possibly two main causes of such revelations - ethical and technical. Some ethically bankrupt labs might be issuing false reports for the sake of money. If that is not the case, the testing machines they have been using are substandard and unreliable or the lab personnel are not efficient enough.