More than 4,000 swab samples for coronavirus PCR test are in queue in Province-2. As of Wednesday, as many as 4,113 swab samples were still in the queue to be tested.

The highest number of halted swab samples is in Saptari (1,027), followed by Sarlahi (800), Dhanusha (700), Mahottari (450), Bara (381), Siraha (322), Rautahat (258), and Parsa (175).

The Province has four laboratories that are equipped to conduct PCR tests. Rajbiraj and Janakpurdham have one machine each provided by the provincial government while Birgunj has two machines provided each by the central government and the metropolis.

As many as 350 swabs can be tested daily in Rajbiraj’s machine. According to Bankumar Mishra, head of the laboratory, about 500 swab samples are tested daily on the machine in Janakpurdham. Both the machines in Birgunj also have the capacity to test about 500 swabs daily.

Officiating chief of the Saptari Health Office, Duniya Lal Yadav, said that other laboratories had refused to accept the swab samples for testing. “Earlier, Dharan-based BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, Kathmandu’s Teku Lab and the laboratory in Biratnagar were also testing swab samples as there were no machines here,” said Yadav adding, “These laboratories now are refusing to take swab samples as they are overwhelmed.”

Yadav added that though 150 to 200 swab samples were collected daily in the district, only 350 Vital Transport Medium (VTM) kits are in stock now. He said they were bound to slow down swab collection as they were running short of VTM.
The success of the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) during the COVID-19 outbreak depends largely on the quality of the specimen and the conditions under which the specimen is transported and stored before being processed in the laboratory.

VTM allows the safe transfer of viruses, chlamydia and mycoplasma for further research, including conventional cell culture methods, diagnostic tests, and molecular biology techniques.

According to Yadav, they will run out of VTM within couple of days and consequently halt swab collection.

The swab samples from Saptari and Siraha are being tested at the Gajendra Narayan Singh Hospital in Rajbiraj. Medical superintendent at the hospital, Dr Ranjit Jha, said that 350 swab samples were being tested at the laboratory on a daily basis.

“We have the capacity to test maximum 500 swab samples a day, but another 500 swab samples are in queue and have to wait for a few days to test all the samples,” Jha said adding, “200 to 300 swabs are coming daily from Siraha.”

Jha informed that even if it takes a maximum of three days for the test results to arrive, it takes up to five days for more when there are high number of swab samples collected and to be tested.

Shravan Kumar Mishra, head of the provincial laboratory Janakpurdham, said that they had limited the collection of swab samples since more swab samples were being collected on a daily basis than a machine could test in a day.

Meanwhile, the province is also facing shortage of VTM, affecting the collection of swab samples from suspected coronavirus infected people.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population, Sarlahi recorded 120 new cases, Dhanusha 43 cases, Bara 24 cases, Rautahat 20 cases, Mahottari 18 cases, Siraha three cases and Saptari and Parsa had one new case each yesterday.

With this, the total number of infected persons in the province has reached 9,945 including 1,421 women. Province 2 alone accounts for nearly 29 per cent of the total infections throughout the country.