Kathmandu, Mar. 26: Among various measures taken by the government to prevent the country from the outbreak of COVID-19, a global pandemic, expansion of services to test the virus and increase the number of health workers across the country is underway. According to the Ministry of Health and Population, it is planning to provide testing facilities for COVID-19 through other health organisations across the country. “The ministry is planning to provide the test services for the virus from BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Dhulikhel Hospital, Bir Hospital and Patan Academy of Health Sciences,” said Sagar Dahal, assistant spokesperson at the ministry. If required, the ministry has also said to extend the testing facilities in each State. For now, only the National Public Health Laboratory is performing the test for the virus. Among more than 650 samples tested for the virus in Nepal by the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), only three have tested positive till date. While the first individual diagnosed with the virus has already recovered, the second and the third individuals are said to be receiving treatment at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku. While some people have been raising questions over the authenticity of the reports by the only laboratory for the virus as it showed negative results in almost all the cases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the lab performed procedures well and the results were accurately interpreted and reported. “Over our request, WHO deployed an expert to review and advise the NPHL on its capacity for testing COVID-19. The report by the team said that other than its capacity to conduct enough tests, the lab’s tests are reliable,” said Dahal, adding, “We are preparing to expand the lab facilities soon.” It was Dr Jonathan Ashcroft, deputy-lead microbiologist working for the core deployable team of UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, who reviewed NPHL while working with the lab from March 13 to 21. A summary report was sent by WHO to the Ministry of Health and Population on Monday. “The lab has recently increased its capacity and can conduct 900 tests in a day. If similar lab facilities are extended across the country, it will be faster to receive the samples, conduct tests and get the results,” said Rajesh Kumar Gupta, information officer of NPHL. Other than the lab facilities, the ministry is also expanding the number of health workers. “To increase the number of health workers, we are planning to announce a vacancy for doctors (MBBS/MD) and nurses. Those applying for the vacancy will be deployed at various places without conducting any examination,” said Ganesh Shreevastav, information officer at the ministry. The ministry, on March 22, directed all the seven States to deploy doctors — both MBBS and MD/MS — who had either studied or are studying under government scholarship in required places as per the need. Even though only two individuals have been diagnosed with the virus till date, the government has directed a nationwide lockdown since Monday, not to let the virus spread and infect more people. Health experts and government authorities have requested the public to remain at home until the lockdown is lifted.