Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population has instructed that the Covid-19 Rapid Diagnostic Kit imported from China by a private contractor not be used after doubts emerged about their reliability.
The ministry has also stopped the use of other kits brought by individuals and private organisations from other sources, until their quality can be assured.
At its daily briefing on Tuesday, the Health Ministry had said testing for COVID-19 would be ramped up to augment measures taken to stop the spread of the virus with the two-week national lockdown.
However, the kits imported from China represent up to 90% of all rapid diagnostic kits available in Nepal, and this would push back efforts to increase testing.
It was the Ministry of Health itself that had signed the agreement with Nepal’s Omni Buisness Corporate International (OBCI) on 25 March to purchase 75,000 Rapid Diagnostic Kits from China worth $600,000.
The Healthy Ministry’s expert consultant Khem Karki said hospitals were being told not to use the tests because they suspected that the kits did not meet World Health Organization (WHO) and the government’s own standards.
“We have instructed hospitals because we are unsure of the quality after receiving information that the COVID-19 test kits imported from abroad by private companies may give wrong results,” Karki told Nepali Times.
Last week, several European countries including Spain had reported false negatives when Chinese-made kits were used for testing suspected coronavirus cases. An investigation there showed that the companies making the kits were not even officially registered in China.
“We are trying to prevent a similar situation to Spain in Nepal,” Karki said.
But why is the Ministry itself is now doubting the quality of the kits brought by a company it had contracted for their purchase?
Karki said Omni had ordered the kits even before the contract was given, and when this was discovered the first consignment was stopped en route via Tibet.
“The quality of some of the kits were not up to mark, and we stopped them while they were in Tibet, but the rest came to Nepal by air,” said Karki, adding that none of these kits had so far been used in government hospitals.
UPDATE: The director General of the Department of Health announced on Wednesday that it had cancelled the contract with Omni Buisness Corporate International (OBCI), and confiscated its Rs50 million deposit.