Kelzang Wangchuk  | Samdrupjongkhar

Samdrupjongkhar residents are suspecting that protecting the identity of the contacts of people who tested Covid-19 positive to be the reason for increasing Covid-19 cases from the community during the lockdown.

A resident, who chose anonymity, said they suspect that people staying in the same red buildings are not disclosing their contacts.

“People would reveal their contacts without hesitation only if the concerned authorities do not charge them for breaching protocols,” he said. “Authorities treat the contacts as community cases when they test positive.”

Residents said authorities and the public were equally responsible for the increasing community cases because authorities did not conduct tests on time, and people did not follow the lockdown protocols.

Eastern Covid-19 task force (EC-19TF) chairperson Dasho Pema Chewang also agreed that these are two primary reasons contributing to the emergence of the cases from the community despite the lockdown.

He said that the present lockdown has not been effective in containing the spread of the virus, unlike the earlier ones, because of the high transmissibility of the current Omicron variant.

He said it is evident through case assessments that 90 percent of the primary contacts tested Covid-19 positive. “The infectious rate is about four times higher than the previous variants.”

Dasho Pema Chewang also said it depends on people’s integrity and how strictly they adhere to the lockdown protocols. “His Majesty always reminded us that a careless person’s mistake would undo all our efforts. It will undo everything we have achieved so far.”

He said they found that a few individuals were still moving around and visiting their neighbours and families, adding that the lockdown is to prevent infectious people from spreading the virus.

“People should understand that lockdown is the last ultimatum we look forward to implementing. We solicit their cooperation to break this chain of transmission, as only a united fight against the Covid-19 can break the chain,” he said.

Dasho Pema Chewang said the contact tracing and management remain some of the most important and effective public health interventions to break the chains of transmission. “We cannot afford to pressure the already exhausted health system further. We are already running short of quarantine and isolation space.”

More than 15,269 samples were tested as part of the enhanced surveillance, out of which 103 cases are from the community. More than 155 individuals have recovered so far since January 1.

Frontline workers test positive 

Samdrupjongkhar has reported 47 Covid-19 cases among its frontline workers since January 1. 

Residents said they are wondering how most of the frontline workers test Covid-19 positive besides strict protocols, and they do not have contact with others because they stay in the containment.

The eastern Covid-19 task force chairman (EC-19TF), Dasho Pema Chewang, said that most of the frontline workers tested Covid-19 positive so far in Samdrupjongkhar, as they were assigned to high-risk tasks. 

He said that was why frontline workers stay in containment centres. The frontline workers include personnel from de-suung, army, police and Bhutan red cross society.

The chairman said the containment centre is to keep the frontline workers to observe symptoms of Covid-19 and prevent it from spreading to their immediate family members, relatives, friends, and the community. 

“Their nature of work, combined with the high transmissibility of the virus, primarily attributes to emerging cases from the containment centres,” Dasho Pema Chewang said.

He said that there was a backup plan either to mobilise the employed de-suups or mobilise desuups from low risks areas within the region. The same applies to other frontline workers.