One already discharged from isolation ward

Younten Tshedup 

All the three Bhutanese who tested positive for Covid-19 have tested negative to the virus at least once in the last 24-hours.

Health minister Dechen Wangmo, at a press briefing yesterday, said that the second Bhutanese patient (case number four) has tested negative twice and has now been removed to a quarantine facility from the isolation ward at the national referral hospital, an indication of recovery.

Lyonpo said that the other two other Bhutanese – case number three and five have also tested negative on Thursday. If their second test, which was conducted yesterday, comes negative, the two would also be de-isolated in a quarantine centre.

She said that if a patient tests negative twice in 24 hours, after two weeks of quarantine if the patient doesn’t show any symptoms, they would be considered recovered. 

“This is a major indication that people are recovering.”

After detecting three consecutive cases within a span of 13 days, the country has not recorded any new cases since April 1.

The minister said this shows the intervention adopted by the country is working. “While no other countries around the world has a provision of facility quarantine, we have taken stringent measures when it comes to quarantine.”

She said that the potential source of positive cases in Bhutan still remains the quarantine centres, as people keep coming from abroad.

However, with the quarantine period extended, Lyonpo said the probability of a person coming out of the quarantine and testing positive later on becomes almost negligible.

“The probability of anyone having the disease after 21 days is about 11 percent but we are testing them at the end of the quarantine to make sure,” she said.  “No country except Bhutan offers testing during the quarantine.”

When the country detected the first Covid-19 positive case, experts used  the SIR modeling, a mathematical model of epidemics to study a possible infection rate with respect to the index case.

Lyonpo explained that the ministry had considered the potential infection from the index case within a period of 21 days without any intervention to be around 369, based on mathematical calculations.

Given all the possible interventions in place, the index case, Bert Hewitt, had infected only one person. “This is an evidence that all our interventions are working, especially the facility quarantine because without the intervention, the index case could have infected more people.”

However, the minister said that biggest concern still lies with the porous border and how the transmission occurs in India. “If in India the transmission becomes more of community-based and sporadic, then it is a problem for us.”

Requesting the public to stay home and stop all unnecessary travels, Lyonpo said people must realize the risk they would be putting themselves and the whole nation in with one mistake.

“Health can only put as much measures as possible, but at the end it boils down to individual responsibility. This is the time we all must work together.”

Over the past 20 days, more than 10,000 Bhutanese have travelled to the bordering areas from Thimphu. “Unless absolutely essential, I request people to refrain from travelling. The moment we enter the Red zone, it would no longer be a request.”

Meanwhile, Sandi Fischer, the second positive case who recovered recently is still in the country. She is in stable condition and staying in a hotel due to the disruption in the flight schedules.