By Purushottam P. Khatri Kathmandu, Nov. 23: On October 2, five passengers who flew to Hong Kong from Nepal showing negative PCR test reports later tested positive when the Hong Kong administration re-tested them. Two days after the incident, Hong Kong suspended Nepal's flight permit from October 4 to 17. The same ordeal was repeated after the flight ban was lifted. On October 19, nine passengers who flew from Nepal with negative reports tested positive in Hong Kong. This time, Hong Kong banned flights to Nepal from October 22 to November 4. After repeating the same sequence for the third time, the Civil Aviation Department, Hong Kong, has stopped the Kathmandu-Hong Kong flight from November 12 to November 25 for the third time by writing a letter to the Nepal Airlines Corporation. Not only Hong Kong but also Kathmandu-Narita (Japan), another destination of Nepal Airlines Corporation, faced a similar situation. The International Air Cargo Terminal of Narita warned the NAC in an email after at least two to 10 people reported positive on each flight during the re-examination of regular passengers. Apart from that, even during the Kathmandu-Dubai flight of the corporation, the passengers who left here with negative reports tested positive there. A letter was received from the UAE's Director General of Civil Aviation drawing the corporation's attention.
Problem with private labs/hospitals Due to the coronavirus pandemic across the world, almost all countries have been requesting a 72-hour negative RT-PCR report to allow people enter their countries. Fed up with the repetition of the unwanted situation, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has written a letter to the COVID-19 Crisis Management Center-Operation (CCMC-OPs) and the Ministry of Health and Population requesting separate investigation into the incidents. “Last week, the Ministry of Tourism sent a letter to Health Ministry for investigation with the details of the persons found in the report,” Kamal Prasad Bhattarai, Joint Secretary at the Ministry, told The Rising Nepal. “We have received false PCR reports from Nepal Airlines Corporation and the same reports were sent to the Ministry of Health requesting fair investigation in which there were more than 10 false reports from Star Hospital, one each from Central Diagnostic Laboratory, Surya Healthcare and one from HAMS,” Bhattarai said. "We have sent a letter to the Health Ministry with the details of the passenger's test to find out what caused it," he said. He said more information would come out after they investigated into the cases. Consultant Microbiologist Dr. Ranjit Sah at the National Public Health Laboratory, Teku said the test might have been done but there was no time to wait for the result, so the PCR reports may have been given in a hurry. A member of Star Hospital's board of directors, Dr. Anil Pokharel, said the sensitivity of the test (ability to detect the virus) may have made a difference. ‘No matter how well tested, the sensitivity of the test is 60 to 70 per cent. When re-testing done among 10 positives, only 6 or 7 persons’ report can come positive again and other's may be different,' he said. "We have been receiving 125 positive cases daily. Problems may appear in the reports of 30 of them, which is a problem of sensitivity," Dr. Pokharel said. He also said that only the swabs after the third day have the ability to detect the virus better than the swabs given on the first day of infection, so the day on which the test was done will make a difference.
Probe committee formed The Ministry of Health last Thursday formed a probe committee to study the differences between the test reports in Nepal and abroad. The ministry has formed an investigation committee under the coordination of Dr. Mukunda Sharma, acting director of the National Public Health Laboratory. "We have been investigating into the cases after extracting their personal lab details from the hospitals," she said. "Once verified completely, the problem will be identified," she said. Meanwhile, Karishma Shrestha, spokesperson of the corporation, said the Corporation had requested the Ministry of Tourism to make arrangements to recognise only the tests done in the government labs. She said that the problem was repeated many times and the image of the corporation's flight was affected.