…quarantine period increased to 21 days
In what could come as a solace to many Bhutanese, the partner of the index case, who tested positive earlier, have now tested negative to the virus.
Health minister Dechen Wangmo during a press briefing yesterday, said that the American woman who was undergoing treatment at the isolation ward at the national referral hospital tested negative on March 23 and 24.
Following the test, the 57-year-old woman has been placed under observation for seven days. Lyonpo said that as per the regulations, if she shows no symptoms within these seven days, she would qualify as recovered.
This means that by April 1, Bhutan could have its first Covid-19 recovered patient.
Lyonpo also shared that the two Bhutanese who tested positive to the virus after returning from Europe have started treatment for the symptoms.
The patients at the isolation ward are given the same antiviral regime that is used in Japan, Singapore and Thailand.
Even as some people in the quarantine centres were planning to request the government if they could continue the remaining days of quarantine at their respective homes, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering yesterday announced that the quarantine period would be increased by seven more days starting today.
This means that those people entering the quarantine centres today would now have to stay inside the designated facility for 21 days upon their arrival in the country.
For those who are already inside the facilities, the 21 day will be counted from the number of days they have been in quarantine so far.
Lyonchhen said that the decision was made considering the highest preventive approach the government has taken so far to prevent the disease from entering the country.
He said that as the surveillance picks up more cases from the quarantine facilities, this is one of the ways to minimise the possibilities.
Although incubation period for Covid-19 ranges from 2-14 days, the average being around five days, there are reports of a few ‘outliers’ around the world and this strategy is to pick such cases, Lyonchhen said.
In a Facebook post addressing all those who are in the quarantine centres, Lyonchhen wrote, “We understand it must have come as a dampening news for most of you in the quarantine facilities, who eagerly waited to meet your family and loved ones upon your return to the country.”
“Given the life we are used to, it is not easy to be confined in a room for even a day, let alone for three weeks. But this has become the necessity of the hour,” he wrote.
Lyonchhen said that those people staying in the quarantine facilities are equally serving the country in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. “As grateful as we are to all the health officials and others in the frontline, the sacrifices you are making are no less.”
The Prime Minister also added that while many have braved the situation in solidarity, anyone inside the quarantine requiring support should call the counsellors listed on the Prime Minister’s Office Facebook page.
“These are challenging times and it is not just us but the entire world that is living through this unprecedented journey. But for Bhutan, we have our biggest assurance and comfort in His Majesty The King who is selflessly looking after the people.”
He added, “So when you walk out of that room at the end of 21 days, hold your head high for you have done your part in serving your King and the country. For now, along with the people of Bhutan, I will pray for your good health.”
Meanwhile, the driver and guide, the primary contacts of the index patient and second positive case were released from the quarantine facility on March 29 after testing negative on their fifth test.
The other driver and guide of the Hong Kong tourist were also released on the same day after testing negative twice and upon the completion of their respective quarantine period.
The ministry have tested and released 124 people from the quarantine centres so far.