Younten Tshedup

The health ministry and quarantine logistics and security team are revising the security protocols for the quarantine facility.

This is following the recent breach that occurred in one of the hotels identified as a quarantine facility in Langjophakha, Thimphu.

Officials also claimed the security protocol was being reviewed with reports of new variants of the virus emerging.

Health officials said that the surveillance team was still studying the details of the recent quarantine breach where a cook had left the facility on three different occasions. The cook later tested positive for Covid-19 and had also come in contact with at least 25 people outside.

Despite several attempts, Kuensel could not verify as to how the cook had left the quarantine facility multiple times.

According to some sources, the cook had gone out through a ‘backdoor’. However, the involvement or non-involvement of security personnel on duty could not be verified either.

Officials said that because the cook was now in isolation, he could not be interrogated. “Talking over the phone and getting his statement doesn’t guarantee a complete picture of what actually happened,” said an official. “We can provide details only once he is out and when the investigation is over.”

It was learnt that the cook had first denied going out of the facility when he tested positive for the virus. However, he later confessed the breach.

Officials said that the golden rule of a quarantine facility was that no one including the security personnel could enter or exit the facility unless they were told to do so.

Quarantine is a public health measure, put in place to limit the movement of, or separate an individual who may have been exposed to an infectious disease from those who have not, and to prevent the spread of the disease.

According to the standard operating procedure (SOP) for quarantine facilities, the purpose of the quarantine is to keep an individual under observation for signs and symptoms of Covid-19 infection.

It was learnt that there were three staff at the quarantine facility in Langjophakha. As per the SOP, the staff should have zero contact with other individuals at the quarantine including the security personnel, desuup or police.

“After the food is ready, it is picked and dropped in front of the rooms by desuups. The cook has no business coming in contact with the people there,” said another official, adding the recent incident was a clear case of breach, where the cook had not followed the protocol and somehow come in contact with a positive individual.

It was learnt that recently a group of Bhutanese referral patients from Kolkata were quarantined in the hotel and some of the patients tested positive for Covid-19.

The official said that although the possibility of air-transmission could not be ruled out in this case, it was more likely that the cook came in physical contact with a positive person. “However, this needs to be established through investigation and it would be possible only once he comes out of the isolation.”

While more reports are emerging on SARS-CoV-2 virus being airborne, experts from the health ministry said that this consideration of the virus being airborne was there since the virus first emerged in Wuhan, China, last year.

The likelihood of an airborne transmission depends on the setting, said an expert. “In a crowded place or a poorly ventilated room, the chances of a person contracting the virus through air is more.”

However, he said that the probability of virus lingering in the air for hours and infecting people just as they walk by was not yet established.

Meanwhile, the country recorded 16 new cases in the last 24 hours including one from the community in Phuentsholing. The rest were detected from the quarantine centres in Phuentsholing, Thimphu, Paro, and Samdrupjongkhar.

This takes the country’s overall tally of confirmed Covid-19 cases to 1,008 as of yesterday evening.