Bhutanese have been found lying without filling the declaration form

Yangchen C Rinzin

The one positive COVID-19 patient, who was evacuated on March 13, arrived his state in the USA yesterday.

This brings to zero COVID-19 cases in Bhutan after the first case was detected on March 5.

However, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that Bhutan would still remain in the “orange zone” or with moderate disruption.

Lyonchhen added that although the patient was no more in Bhutan, there was still the threat of bringing in the virus, especially through Bhutanese travellers returning home.

“Since there are no more tourists coming in, there is no risk of bringing in virus through tourists,” Lyonchhen said. “However, there is a high risk of bringing in virus through Bhutanese students studying abroad or business people who are still travelling despite requesting to minimise the travel.”

Lyonchhen said that all incoming Bhutanese should declare their entire travel history honestly at the entry points.

Bhutanese have been found lying without filling the declaration form.

Two Bhutanese businesspersons were found to have not declared their travel history on March 13. One of them had returned from USA and, at the border, they told the police that they had just gone out for shopping near the border town.

“Henceforth, whoever is found to have declared false travel history could face legal consequences,” Lyonchhen said. “The travellers depending on the situation would be either home-quarantined or put in designated quarantine centres, especially those returning from high risk countries.”

Apart from requesting people to be honest with their travel history, Lyonchhen urged people to self-quarantine at home for 14 days if they are not put in designated quarantine after returning to Bhutan.

Sixteen doctors, nurses, and health personnel who treated and attended to the American tourist are being quarantined.

The schools in five dzongkhags will reopen from March 19.

“We can only ask them [parents] to ensure that children wash their hands frequently. If any children show any kind of symptoms or fall sick, they should be kept at home,”  Lyonchhen said.

Should there be any positive case, Prime Minister said that there were enough testing kits and medical equipment to tackle up to 40 positive cases.

“We don’t have enough equipment if the cases are more than 100 but it is unlikely given the precautionary measures put in place,” Lyonchhen said. “We’ve enough testing kits to test almost 5,000.”

Lyonchhen also said there were enough ventilators as of now and the health ministry has placed orders for additional ventilators and equipment.

On the command of His Majesty The King, the health ministry established the laboratory facility (RT-PCR) in Phuentsholing yesterday.

The Royal Centre for Disease Control tested samples from 238 suspects as of last Friday.

There are 62 first contacts cases in the quarantine centres; 330 secondary contacts are in self-quarantine as of now.

Lyonchhen said that after completing the 14-day quarantine, which will end on March 18, another test would be conducted and if cases prove negative, they [the cases] would be sent home.

A total of six tourists left Bhutan and there were 49 tourists in the country as of yesterday.