Clusters in Thimphu and Punakha declared red zones 

Younten Tshedup 

Chubachu area in Thimphu and Phenteykha village under Toepisa gewog, Punakha have been declared Red Zones following the detection of Covid-19 cases.

Fifteen positive cases were detected from the Chubachu area that includes close contacts and family members of the 25-year-old index case.

Of the 37 samples tested in Punakha, two were positive. Also, three people have tested positive from the Bhutan Telecom Ltd in Thimphu where over 269 were tested. One of the drivers, who was a primary contact of the 25-year-old woman, tested positive the previous day on December 20.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo during a live address last night said that given the epicentre of the outbreak (Chubachu area) being centre of the town and associated with a high frequency of movement, Thimphu, for now, was a highly risky area.

Lyonpo said that around 800 close contacts of the 20 cases were traced from the locality and would be tested beginning today. Some of these contacts had reached other dzongkhags including Haa, Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa, Samtse, and Sarpang.

Because some students have also tested positive earlier, Lyonpo said that schools would be screened and individuals will be tested once again. The results were expected to come out late last night.

As of yesterday around 160 students were tested. There were no positive cases from the group. 

On declaring entire Thimphu as a Red Zone, the minister said that the close contacts of the positive cases were still being traced and tested. Based on the test results, Lyonpo said that areas would be demarcated in line with their risk status into red, yellow and green zones.

Earlier, based on the risk assessment criteria of the health ministry, Thimphu was found to be highly vulnerable for a local outbreak as it was associated with very high population density and mobility of people.

The ministry has also identified over 5,000 elderly and close to 3,000 people with pre-existing medical conditions in the capital. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 is known to affect more people in these categories.

“This is why we are all worried,” the minister said. “We urge everyone to take individual responsibility and sincerely follow the lockdown protocol and public health guidelines.”

She said that to effectively contain and break the chain of transmission, it would depend on the manner in which the lockdown protocol is followed by the public.

Lyonpo said that because most of the infected individuals were in an acute phase of transmission, meaning early stage of infection, if the lockdown was properly followed, the spread could be contained.

Meanwhile, despite the lockdown in the capital, Lyonpo said that the national referral hospital would continue to provide essential medical services including vaccination for children and other MCH services.

However, the public is requested to make appointments with the concerned doctors to avoid crowding at the hospital.

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