Community transmission still active in Thimphu

Younten Tshedup

After recording no positive cases from the community for four straight days, positive cases from the flu clinics and communities have re-emerged in the past two days.

Of the six new cases detected last night, two were from the flu clinics in Thimphu. A resident of Dechencholing who had visited the flu clinic at Nima High School tested positive yesterday.

Another individual, a resident of Debsi also tested positive from the flu clinic at Changlimithang parking area. The special flu clinic was set up to test those travelling outside Thimphu and abroad.

On January 2, three individuals tested positive from the high-risk cluster testing in Thimphu. The high-risk cluster testing is conducted in clusters where positive cases have been detected earlier.

These individuals had no direct contact with those who had tested positive earlier. Similarly, those cases picked from the flu clinics also do not have any direct interaction with the previously detected cases.

This could mean that 15 days after the locking down the capital city, there is still active transmission of the virus in the community. This also reduces the probability of unlocking the capital city as it enters its third week of lockdown.  

So far, majority of the positive cases after the lockdown have been limited to the close contacts of cases detected earlier. As of last night, of the 260 new cases detected since December 20, more than 82 percent (214) were close contacts of the positive cases. Twenty-six of them had tested positive during the community screening and 20 from the flu clinics.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that following the detection of the index case, close to 2,600 people were identified as contacts (including contacts of contacts) and quarantined at their respective homes.

Quarantining of the close contacts means that as long as cases continue to emerge from this classification of people, the source of the transmission is identified and contained.

However, when a positive person is picked from a flu clinic or during a mass screening, they are unaware of their infection (no symptoms), thus not classified as a contact of the positive cases. Until the case investigation, these individuals do not have a particular source of infection.

Despite the lockdown, individuals are allowed to come outside in their respective zones. Under this arrangement, there is a possibility that these people could further spread the virus, keeping the community transmission active.

Meanwhile, the outbreak this time has been affecting people of all ages and in a very short span of time. As of yesterday, the virus has infected children as young as 2.5 months old and elders as old as 83 years old.

The 2.5-year-old infant who tested positive on January 2 along with her mother was brought to the hospital with vomiting and loose motion. The baby tested positive while under observation.

Health officials said that as of yesterday, the baby had improved compared to her condition while she was admitted at the isolation ward at the national referral hospital.

Along with her, there are three other infants below the age of one year at the JDWNRH’s isolation ward. All are in stable condition, according to health officials.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that there were also 71 students who had tested positive so far. “Including the 83-year-old, our eldest patient, all are in stable condition with no one requiring the support of a ventilator.”

In Paro, more than 12,000 samples were collected from the communities in 12 gewogs. Majority of the cases in Paro, so far, have been detected from the Shaba area during contract tracing and a few through mass screening.

An official said that the ministry was confident that there was no widespread transmission of Covid-19 in Paro. Randomised mass screening started from December 24 and completed on January 2.

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