Jigmi Wangdi 

Health officials in the country remain alert after the neighbouring countries recently observed a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Indian media report that at least four cases of the Omicron sub-variant BF.7, the Covid strain driving China’s current surge of cases, have been detected in India so far. It has also been detected in the US, UK and European countries such as Belgium, Germany, France and Denmark.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), China had 148,665 confirmed cases in the last seven days with 16,555 new confirmed cases as of December 20. India gets around 1,200 confirmed cases on a weekly basis. The number of confirmed cases this past week was 1,104 with 112 new confirmed cases as of December 20.

According to sources, India is in the process of ramping up its genome sequencing as a proactive measure to study the emergence of new variants of the virus.

A Department of Public Health official said that the health ministry is keeping vigil and studying the virus trends. “Bhutan is relatively in a downward trend and we just have a handful of cases.”

The official said that the surveillance team and the Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group are ready if there is a sudden increase in the cases.

“We conduct frequent meetings to discuss the Covid-19 trends and plan policies for preparation accordingly,” the official said.

Random screenings are carried out at the points of entry and the Department has instructed all health workers to increase vigilance. The official said the National Covid-19 dashboard has been removed as there were fewer cases. “However, we will start its operation again if the number of cases rises.”

A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office in May this year announced the relaxation of Covid-19 measures in the country. After two and a half years of lockdowns and restrictions, the nation started coming back to normal.

Eight months after the announcement, there has not been a serious increase in Covid-19 cases in the country. Mass gatherings during religious ceremonies, national celebrations, entertainment centres and sporting activities without physical distancing, face masks or having to use the Druk Trace App gave a warm yet distinct feeling of life before the pandemic.

Businesses have started to pick up and the livelihoods of many Bhutanese who suffered during the pandemic have started improving.

While Bhutan enjoys hard-won peace, some countries are witnessing an increase in cases.

According to Indian media reports, the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions earlier this month in China as a result of mass protests has led to a huge surge in Covid-19 cases. Experts say that 60 percent of the country could be fatally infected in the next three months. The strain in China is a version of the BA.5 sub-variant of Omicron.

Renowned epidemiologist and health economist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding warned that 10 percent of the world population is likely to be infected in the next three months with the number of death cases increasing to millions.

The epidemiologist also points to shortages in pharmaceuticals as China is having major shortages of basic medicine like ibuprofen. “If China has a shortage, the rest of the world will have a shortage,” said the epidemiologist.

A report by The Economic Times said because of the reliance of the global healthcare system on China along with other industrial needs, the waves of cases in the country foreshadow troubles for the global economy similar to the struggles of 2020.

There are more than 330,220 new cases around the world.