… rumour about lockdown triggers massive panic buying

Younten Tshedup

Thimphu will have to endure another lockdown beginning today if the test results of the contacts of the three infected hotel staff turn positive.

By 7pm yesterday, it was almost confirmed that the capital city would undergo another episode of lockdown after three staff from a hotel (quarantine centre) in Thimphu tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday.

Breaching the quarantine protocol, the hotel’s cook moved out of the facility on three occasions. He went out to play cricket on two occasions at the Pelkhil School and Dechencholing area.

According to sources, the cook made contact with some people in the areas including an official from the National Land Commission during the game. He is also suspected to have come in contact with other players.

A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office stated that as of 7pm last night, 30 primary contacts were tested and quarantined, while more contacts were being traced. The health ministry’s surveillance was also stepped up to assess and determine the viral shedding and transmission in the community.

Should any of the contacts test positive today, it would mean the presence of local transmission of the virus in Thimphu.

Sources said that recently a group of Bhutanese referral patients who returned from Kolkata were quarantined in the hotel in Langjophakha. Some of the patients tested positive for Covid-19. It is believed that the hotel staff could have contracted the virus from these patients.

According to the Covid-19 protocol, an identified quarantine facility has to operate in containment mode. Meaning, all staff including the frontline workers manning the facility cannot leave the facility unless asked to do so.  

Usually, when someone from such a facility tests positive, the staff and the frontline workers are put into quarantine for at least seven days and tested before releasing them. 

Apparently, in this case, following the detection of positive cases from the facility, the staff were not quarantined and one of them had breached the protocol and had left the facility multiple times.

The health ministry has requested all those who had been a part of the cricket game on April 17 and 18 at the Pelkhil School and Dechencholing area to contact officials via the hotline numbers 2121 or 6060, if they were not contacted by the health team already.

Meanwhile, despite warnings from health officials and the Prime Minister’s Office for residents to avoid crowds and remain at home since there was a possibility of local transmission in the city, Thimphu residents went on a spree of panic buying and thronged grocery stores and local markets last night.