Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The symptoms were mild. It started with a headache, increase in body temperature and nausea.

This is what the 28-year-old woman in Phuentsholing went through on January 12, two days before testing positive for the Omicron variant of Covid-19. She thought it was a common cold and went to sleep. She even went shopping in preparation for imminent lockdowns.

The symptoms worsened the next day. “I felt dizzy,” said the woman.

By late night, her body temperature increased again making her weak and dizzy. She had lost sense of taste and smell.

“I saw my tongue had turned white, different from how it was normally,” she said. She didn’t visit the flu clinic because she was alone and  didn’t have a car.

The  woman took a paracetamol tablet and slept. The next day, on January 14, when she went to the hospital flu clinic, she tested positive for Covid-19.

“They said it was Omicron,” said the woman who is now in isolation and recovering.

Yesterday, the woman said she is still nursing a cough and cold, fever, fatigue and chest pain.

“I have mild breathing problems and pain in my upper stomach, the pain you get when you feel hungry.”

After being tested positive last Friday, she also said she experienced diarrhoea for two days. The condition, however, improved from the third day, she added explaining this must be an attribute of Omicron.

“I was very scared when I tested positive. I thought I would die soon. I am still worried.”

Besides spreading through a population with a high transmissibility rate, Omicron is widely known to cause inherently milder diseases than previous variant.

The woman from Samtse, had come to start a business in Phuentsholing. In isolation, she spends time watching YouTube videos, she said.

Meanwhile, three more Covid-19 positive cases were detected from the community yesterday. Two women, 29 and 42, and a 46-year-old man tested positive for Covid-19 from the heart of the town. The women operated a restaurant and tailoring shop in the Mig Cinema cluster. The 46-year-old man, who also runs a restaurant, was detected by the Multi-Level Car Parking (MLCP) flu clinic.

About 28 close contacts and about 350 individuals who visited the restaurants and tailoring shop were tested yesterday. Results are awaited. All the close contacts have been quarantined.

Phuentsholing has now detected seven positive cases from the community.

The Southern Covid-19 task Force (SC19TF) also declared a 24-hour blackout period, which will conclude at 5am today.

This is the second time the town was put under a blackout. On the morning of January 7, Phuentsholing was put under a 72-hour blackout, after a 37-year-old expatriate working at Lucky Restaurant and Bar tested positive.

She is the first case from the community since Phuentsholing came out of a four months’ lockdown on August 10, 2021.

While contract tracing and testing are being carried out rigorously, many are concerned about how the virus is spreading despite aggressive protocols. Many are of the view that the reduced quarantine time, from earlier 21 days to 14 days for those entering the country, could be the reason for the emergence of the Omicron in the community. However, there are no findings to validate.

According to health experts, the incubation period for SARS-COV-2 to cause Covid-19 takes two to 14 days. About 15 to 20 percent of the patients show symptoms only after seven days.

As per the proportion of symptom onset data from possible exposure date for locally transmitted cases in Bhutan (data up to the second lockdown), 54 percent showed symptoms within three days and 85 percent showed symptoms within seven days.

About 95 percent showed symptoms within 14 days, while 99 percent showed symptoms within 21 days.