As Coronavirus cases continue to surge in Nepal, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the KP Sharma Oli government to intensify the range of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing among the citizens who have shown symptoms of infections from the disease.
A single bench consisting of Justice Manoj Kumar Sharma was hearing the writ petition filed by lawyer Kalam Bahadur Khatri, demanding the government to speed up PCR testing. The writ petition reportedly also alleged that the administration has not been working adequately for the protection of the general public from the novel Coronavirus disease. Besides Kalam Bahadur Khatri, advocates Kritinath Sharma, Padam Bahadur Khatri, Nawaraj Pandey, Santosh Bhandari, and Sujan Nepal also made their cases on their requirements during the SC hearing on the matter.
Ruling out the verdict, the SC bench instructed the government and its authorities including the PM office, Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Health and Population to protect the rights of the citizens in the wake of the global health crisis. The top court has also issued a show-cause notice to the government to submit a reason within the next 15 days as to why the range of PCR testing has not been expanded yet.
As per media reports, Nepal has been performing more rapid diagnostic tests than PCR tests which have led to a surge in the number of infected cases. Research conducted by scientists has suggested that a rapid diagnostic test can be less reliable as it only tests antibodies in the blood. PCR, on the other hand, tests for the presence of virus itself which shows reliable results. So far (May 15), the Himalayan nation has recorded 249 COVID-19 positive cases and the constant rise in cases has sent a wave of fear among the citizens. The Nepal government imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 23 by issuing stay-at-home orders, closing all borders, and suspending domestic and international flights in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Later, the lockdown was extended for the third time till May 18.
Notably, the government partially lifted a few restrictions recently by allowing vehicular movement with a pass and timing restraints with the aim to mitigate the impact of lockdown. However, analysts suggested that the easing of restrictions might have led to an increased spread of the infection. Meanwhile, Nepal’s already weak healthcare system is grappling with the health pandemic even as resources are exhausting with each passing day. An effective testing and recovery strategy by the government is the need of the hour to tackle the pandemic.