Sunday, 29 November, 2020
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People must understand COVID-19 testing is free for all



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By Ajita Rijal
Kathmandu, Nov.20 ; Health experts are warning that the COVID-19 pandemic will get worse as the winter sets in and have suggested conducting more tests. However, people are found reluctant to testing, and the number of tests is declining.
The number of COVID-19 tests carried out during the Tihar festival dipped significantly when compared to the daily average before the festival of colour.
While the average number of daily tests in November has ranged between 10,000-15,000, on Tuesday November 17 this number dropped to 3,112. On Wednesday 6,731 tests were carried out and on Thursday, 9,805 tests were conducted.
Dr. Sagar Rajbhandari, director at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku said, “During the festival, testing goes down as people think I will test after celebration, also people have a mindset that ‘it’s a common cold, it will go away’. When people do not provide samples, the tests dropped significantly,” added Dr. Rajbhandari.
If everyone develops such attitude, the elderly and those who belong to high-risk health categories will be affected, said Dr. Rajbhandari and added that the tests would increase day by day with the end of festival season after Chhath as more cases will be reported during winter season.
Individuals are found unwilling to undergo COVID-19 tests due to the fear of being separated from their families and being admitted to a hospital during the festival, said Dr. Rajbhandari.
Dr. Rajbhandari added that the government authorities need to have very robust testing system now more than ever, showing concern over the worst-case scenario of pandemic during the winter. The government must expand free testing as much as possible and mobilise manpower for contact tracing, added Dr. Rajbhandari.
The number of people opting to undergo COVID-19 tests has dropped after the government decision of providing free testing and treatment to only needy people, said Dr. Rabindra Pandey, a public health expert.
Dr. Pandey suggested government for bringing a new strategy of contact tracing and testing as it is the only way to contain the spread of the virus. The government must embrace mass testing strategy and let people know that it is providing free testing and treatment for COVID-19, added Dr. Pandey.
“The government authorities should now conduct contact tracing and testing as people are fed up with COVID-19. Now the public might not go for test due to psychological, social or economic factors,” said Dr. Pandey.
If the authorities will not act promptly, they neglect COVID-19 and may suffer silent pneumonia, which leads to more fatalities, he added. Nepal has witnessed around 10-20 death cases on a daily basis and on Thursday it reported 17 deaths and the nation’s death toll has reached 1,276.
Even private testing has reduced because the patients are reluctant to undergo tests. They think that they can take care of themselves and do not need to be admitted to hospitals, which puts the vulnerable groups at higher risk, cautioned, Dr. Pandey.

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