Chhimi Dema

From 30 to 50 patients a day before the lockdown, flu clinics in Thimphu are today seeing about 300 to 400 patients a day.

There were days when 1,000 to 1,500 patients visited the flu clinic in a day.

In the last 27 days, flu clinics in the country tested 35,000 people. Flu clinics in Thimphu tested 9,610 people.

The flu clinics were established to discourage people with flu-like symptoms from visiting hospitals to prevent possible transmission of Covid-19.

Health ministry’s chief programme officer, Rixin Jamtsho, said the increase in the number of people visiting the flu clinic indicates that people are well aware of Covid-19 prevention and precautions.

There are 59 flu clinics in the country, including five mobile flu clinics operated in a van in Thimphu. Three mobile flu clinics cover the north, south and central part of Thimphu city. Two mobile flu clinics cover the outskirts of Thimphu like Hontsho, Yoesipang, Trashigang Goenpa, Kabesa, Changtagang, Begana and Dodena.

Rixin Jamtsho said the mobile flu clinics would ensure accessibility and coverage for those residing at the outskirts of Thimphu and for those elders without cars to access the service. “The clinics would stop people from entering other zones as well.”

There are about 250 health staff delivering the flu clinic services in the country. Three to four health officials manage each flu clinic.

He said getting space to station the mobile flu clinics was a challenge. “The land and building owners were reluctant to provide the space fearing Covid-19 transmission.”

Rixin Jamtsho said that despite the awareness and advocacies discouraging healthy people to visit the flu clinic some were visiting still. “There is a risk of transmitting Covid-19 to healthy individuals.”

Health ministry’s Facebook page stated that the establishment of flu clinics and mobile flu clinics throughout the second national lockdown has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people availing flu clinic services.

Meanwhile, considering the risk of infection due to active transmission of Covid-19, testing for tuberculosis and HIV were halted. It would resume when the situation returns to normal.