Nima Wangdi 

Although many people were worried that Covid-19 cases would surge after schools reopened, the number of positive cases remained low or continued to decline.

Going by the official record, the number of positive cases was higher in the first week of April and it continued into the second week.

There were 2,291 on April 6, which was recorded as the one-day highest positive cases. On April 12, there were 2,200 positive cases and 2,131 on April 13.

However, the number of positive cases started to decline from April 14, which recorded 1,879 cases.

Health officials justified that a certain spike of positive cases was recorded during the community screening.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo attributed the drop in positive cases to the efficacy of vaccines against the virus, wide coverage of vaccines, restrictions and lockdowns, high compliance with the non-pharmaceutical interventions like washing hands and wearing masks by the public and careful reopening.

She claimed that schools were reopened for the senior classes in the first phase and since it did not report many positive cases, she became confident to reopen the school for lower classes. “I was worried when the schools first reopened, but there weren’t any problem.”

The schools were asked not to hold any gatherings, avoid prayers and assemblies.

According to the minister, going by the trend, Bhutan has a slight rise in the positive cases in the beginning and now a slight decline. “This is exactly what we wanted and we would not have been able to handle or pay much attention if there was a sudden sharp spike. ”

She said that when there are restrictions, the virus circulation in the community is less. “At least seven days of restriction will reduce the virus infection by almost 37 percent.”

The minister also said that the vaccine reduces severity and hospitalisation by almost 80 percent. “Transmission also gets reduced by 30 to 40 percent with the vaccine.”

She said those who have not contracted the virus so far are probably because of the vaccine. “If the person is vaccinated, the virus shedding will be less and shorter and recovery will also be faster.”

According to Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, we are still transitioning from one phase to another of the pandemic and almost 100 percent of the virus in circulation is omicron, which is mild. “They also conduct gene sequencing every month to see if there are other variants. We are keeping a close eye on the evolution of the virus.”

She said SARS Covid-2, the omicron variant for now is mild but the virus becoming lethal is not zero probability. “Going by the thumb rule, as the virus evolves, it should become milder but there is always an exception.”

The minister said some people assume no one would die after the disease has been levelled as endemic. “This is wrong as people would continue to die if they are not careful.”

She said that whether it is endemic or a continuation of the pandemic, the objective of intervention will be to prevent premature mortality. “We don’t want anybody to die prematurely, which we can control and prevent. We still need to be cautious since it is not over yet.”

With not many people coming for the test, all the testing centres in Thimphu were closed down since May 2. However, the testing services continue at the flu clinic at the RBP ground.

Of the 59,422 people who tested positive of the virus so far, 59,033 have recovered and 21 died.

The health ministry also announced that the Covid-19-positive patients isolated in their homes should avail medical assistance from their respective dzongkhag hotline number, 1010. People can also call 112 for any medical emergency.