Questions have been raised after the government procured rapid testing kits for COVID-19 not approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and widely criticized as unreliable in different countries.
The government procured 75,000 such kits, that can give result in 10-15 minutes, from China paying Rs 70 million. But their result is not reliable. Experts have been discouraging use of these kits saying they can show even the infected persons to be negative and fear they may go into the community and spread the disease.
"The government seems to have procured these kits in a haste without consulting with experts. There are complaints round the globe about this kit not giving accurate report. There should be serious investigation before bringing such materials," public health research scientist with the Center for Molecular Dynamics-Nepal Sameer Mani Dixit told Setopati. He said he is in the technical team of the emergency health operation center of the Health Ministry but the issue has not been discussed.
The government has said it will not use the kits after widespread criticism. "We have not used rapid testing kits until now and there is no plan of using them," Spokesperson at the Health Ministry Dr Bikas Devkota told Setopati expressing ignorance about procurement of the rapid testing kits.
He clarified that the National Public Health Laboratory also has not recommended use of such kits. "We only sent the list of reagents required for the machine of laboratory. We have not recommended for procurement of testing kits," Director at the laboratory Dr Runa Jha corroborated.
She agreed that such kits can be used if tests have to be done on a large scale in the future but pointed that questions have been raised about accuracy of these kits.
Director General with the Health Service Department Mahendra Prasad Shrestha said the rapid testing kits have been procured as testing may have to be done on a larger scale in the coming days. He claimed that the kits have been procured with condition to return if there is any problem. "We will return if there are problems."
He conceded that the WHO has not recommended the kits but denied that 75,000 units have been procured. "We will bring all the materials in three stages. Testing kits will also arrive in separate lots," he added.
The government has brought reagents for the National Public Health Laboratory in Teku Kathmandu and PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines for five places outside the Kathmandu Valley.
Questions have been raised about the vested interest in procuring 75,000 faulty rapid testing kits when the laboratory and five PCR machines together can test over 30,000 samples. The government officials do not have clear answers.
The rapid testing kits procured from China have been criticized in Spain and other countries for lack of accuracy. The WHO has not approved them while experts have also recommended to not use them citing their inaccuracy.