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… in the past four days since the local Covid-19 outbreak 

Younten Tshedup 

Since the lockdown in Thimphu Thromde on December 20, the country, on average, has seen almost 13 new cases of Covid-19 every day.

As of yesterday, 53 new cases including the index case (25-year-old woman) were detected since December 20, with 31 cases in Thimphu, 18 in Paro, two in Punakha, and one each in Lhamoidzingkha under Dagana and Bumthang.

The virus as of day four of the Thimphu Thromde lockdown has spread to Punakha, Paro, Dagana (Lhamoidzingkha), and Bumthang.

The rapid spread of the virus triggered a nationwide lockdown for the second time beginning yesterday.

Twenty-one new cases were reported yesterday — 15 in Paro, five in Thimphu and one in Bumthang. Health Minister Dechen Wangmo last night said that in Paro 14 students of Shaba Higher Secondary School and a parent of a student tested positive for the virus.

“Outbreak in schools was one of our biggest fears,” Lyonpo said, adding that with a few students in Thimphu testing positive earlier, more than 350 students in Yangchenphug, Nima and Lungtenzampa schools were tested. None tested positive from the group.

In Paro, close to 400 students in Shaba HSS and about 300 students in Khangkhu MSS were tested.

So far over 1,300 close contacts of positive cases have been traced and tested in Thimphu. In Wangdue, there are over 40 contacts, 66 in Punakha, 31 in Dagana, and 118 in Paro. All the contacts are quarantined.

Four days after the detection of the first case in the community, the health minister said that the source of infection (individual) was difficult to establish. This was because the infection was already spread in the communities.   

However, she said that it was the Chubachu cluster that recorded the first positive case this time.

Testing

Lyonpo said that over 7,500 people were tested at the 54 flu clinics (plus two in Thimphu) as of last night.

With concerns over the type of testing provided (antigen and RT-PCR), the minister said that although the sample collection (nasal swab) was the same for both the tests, antigen tests were available across all the flu clinics.

She said that symptomatic patients were readily detected by antigen test and also took less time (around 30 minutes) than an RT-PCR test. “An antigen test is most effective between four to five days after the infection.” RT-PCR on the other hand took over six hours to show results and was effective between two to three days and could also detect the virus even without people showing symptoms.

She added that the RT-PCR method of testing was therefore used for risk groups and identified clusters.

 

Preparedness 

Lyonpo said that the national referral hospital could easily handle around 200 Covid-19 patients. There are currently 60 patients at the Covid-19 ward.

“Many patients would not even require hospital admission,” she said. For asymptomatic cases who do not require hospital admission, they would be kept in an isolation facility, usually an identified hotel.

As of yesterday, there were two patients who were in critical condition at the national referral hospital. However, their seriousness was not because of Covid-19. The two already had pre-existing medical conditions.

Lyonpo also added that there were adequate test kits including 120,000 RT-PCR kits, 90,000 rapid antibodies test kits, and 80,000 rapid antigen test kits. “There is not much of an issue with the test kits including the PPEs.”

Meanwhile, Lyonpo urged people to take extra precaution as they were allowed to move out since yesterday. “Unless necessary, please stay at home. Make sure you wash your hands immediately after returning home. Wear a mask while going to the flu clinic and maintain physical distance.”

She added that until the situation improves, everyone else should consider the other person to be a potential carrier of the virus.

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