The government has given permission to three more private laboratories to conduct PCR tests.
Surya Health Care of Lazimpat, Kathmandu, National Path Lab of Butwal and Bageshwori Laboratory of Kohalpur are the latest to get permission for PCR tests from the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) that was delegated the authority to decide about private laboratories.
The NPHL had earlier granted permission to Kathmandu Medical College, Star Hospital and Central Diagnostic Laboratory in the first stage.
No private laboratory, however, has started to do PCR tests despite getting permission.
The Health Ministry will have to send excess samples that the government laboratories cannot test to these laboratories for testing. A team has been formed in the ministry to decide which laboratories to send the extra samples to.
The private laboratories are not getting to test samples as the government laboratories currently can handle the collected samples with the government recently narrowing the scope of tests. The new testing guidelines say even those in quarantine facilities do not need PCR test if they are asymptomatic.
The 23 laboratories across the country are currently doing around 4,000 tests a day with the highest one-day record of just over 7,000. The government is preparing to set up 10 new laboratories for PCR testing.
The government will pay Rs 5,500 for each test the private laboratories do but many private laboratories complain that the rate is too low.
The government while issuing the standards for private laboratories at first had said they should have three PCR machines for eligibility even as no government laboratory apart from the National Public Health Laboratory in Teku has three. It had later corrected the standards and said even those with just one machine would qualify.
Nineteen private laboratories applied for permission after that. Six of them have been granted permission now while others have sought for more time seeking they have yet to complete preparations.