Kohima: While no positive case of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) has been reported in Nagaland so far, the state government is fast-tracking the establishment of two virology laboratories, as all suspected samples are outsourced to the nearest states of Manipur and Assam for testing. Top officials on Tuesday informed that a bio-safety level 3 laboratory and a bio-safety level 2 laboratory will be set up in Kohima and Dimapur, respectively, in “a few weeks”.

A four-member committee headed by health and family welfare secretary Kesonyu Yhome as the convenor has been set up to facilitate the process of establishing the virology laboratories. Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Yhome said that with an “ambitious target”, the state government is making all efforts to set up a bio-safety level 3 laboratory at the Naga Hospital Authority Kohima (NHAK) in Kohima and a bio-safety level 2 laboratory at CIHSR in Dimapur.

Although a specific time frame for the completion of the laboratories was not disclosed, Yhome said that that the matter is referred at the highest level with the governor and the chief minister, and that it will take “few weeks” for completion. He informed that the committee comprising of experts is working “round the clock” to ensure that all safety protocols as per international standards, are maintained towards establishing the laboratories and that there will be no compromise as far as safety is concerned. He added that the state government is in touch with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to ensure the establishment of these laboratories.

Nagaland principal secretary Menukhol John (left) and health and family welfare secretary Kesonyu Yhome addressing the media in Kohima on Tuesday

Although the state is taking on priority in establishing the bio-safety laboratories, Yhome said that a delay in the availability of resources could “break the chain” and delay the process as the state is dependent on other states for procuring resources for setting up the high risk security laboratories. Principal secretary Menukhol John added that although manpower is a challenge, health workers will be trained to operate the laboratories, even prior to the setting up of the labs.

With no testing centre in the state, Nagaland has been outsourcing all samples to Imphal, Dibrugarh and Gauhati for sample testing. While the department had earlier claimed that the sample results will be declared within six hours, test results are now taking over 20 hours.

Principal director Dr Vizolie Z Suokhrie, however, said that the department is relying on special Viral Transport Medium (VTM) to transport the samples. He added that the specimens transported to the laboratory through the viral transport medium are kept under minus degree Celsius to ensure that the virus survives till the time it is tested.

Suokhrie reiterated that samples are sent for testing as per protocol and that all persons from affected areas showing symptoms are compulsorily tested. He also revealed that two samples sent for testing were disqualified for testing as it did not meet the required criteria.

Meanwhile, as of 5 pm on Tuesday, 61 samples have been sent for testing, with 48 samples testing negative and 13 others still awaited.

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