Sarpang records 31 Covid-19 positive cases in the past nine days 

Nima | Gelephu

With more foreign workers and Bhutanese returnees testing positive for Covid-19 over the past nine days, Gelephu recorded its highest active cases with 31 cases between January 3 and yesterday.

This is the highest number of cases recorded in Sarpang since the country first reported a Covid-19 case in March 2020.

While there are no community cases in dzongkhag as of today, the increasing number of imported cases in foreign workers and Bhutanese returning from abroad has exposed health workers to the virus.

A health worker attending to a patient returning from Guwahati, India, tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, along with the husband of the patient.

She is the first health worker to test positive for Covid-19 while on duty. The health worker was placed in the isolation ward.

Out of the total 31 imported cases, three are Bhutanese. The rest are foreign workers currently isolated in the Covid-19 ward and 200-bed quarantine facility.

The patient, who was diagnosed with a brain-related disease, died yesterday in Gelephu hospital. The 36-year-old woman from Punakha was airlifted to Guwahati on January 4 and returned on January 8, as there was no cure for the disease.

One doctor and a nurse along with support staff were deployed at the ICU of the isolation ward to assist the woman, who was put on a ventilator. Her husband and brother were quarantined at the same unit while also attending to the patient after returning from Guwahati.

The medical superintendent of the hospital, Dr Choeda said that the most worrying part was the health worker testing positive while on duty. The primary contact, a roommate of the positive case, was isolated immediately.

As a precaution, half of  the staff working at the hospital were tested for Covid-19 yesterday. The test was also to determine if the health worker was exposed while at the isolation ward.

There are no cases in the community so far and no one from the community was exposed because she was isolated directly from the isolation ward to the quarantine facility after testing positive, according to the official.

He added that health officials, who escorted the woman and attendants to the isolation ward, were wearing full personal protective equipment. “The officials have yet to learn how the health worker was exposed to the virus,” said Dr Choeda.

The majority of the positive cases reported to date are asymptomatic.

While the variant of the positive cases reported in Gelephu is unknown, officials say the incubation period of the cases was fast compared to the past positive cases.

The health worker who was attending the woman could have been exposed to the virus at the isolation ward because the brother was shifted to the ICU after studying the situation at the hospital, according to the officials.

The brother tested positive on January 10 after returning from Guwahati, India on January 8.

“The husband was emotionally down and needed help,” said the doctor.

“Other staff might not test positive because the case was from the isolation facility. It will be difficult to look after more than 30 cases with the current capacity,” he said.