The female student had returned from Europe this week  

Younten Tshedup 

In a span of 20 days, Bhutan has detected three Covid-19 positive cases. However, the situation remains the same and the threat level is still Orange for the country.

The third patient was a student who had returned home from Europe on March 22.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, during a press briefing yesterday, said that the female student started having mild fever and cough while at the quarantine centre around 3pm on March 25.

She was screened and health officials subsequently carried out a confirmatory test as per the set standard operating procedure. “The test result came positive. She was then removed from the quarantine centre to the isolation unit at the national referral hospital,” said the minister.

The patient, according to the health minister, is in stable condition and has not shown any more symptoms for now.

Her roommate who had travelled along with her has been shifted to a separate room.


No reason to panic

Lyonpo said that although the number of positive cases has increased to three, there were no reasons for Bhutanese to panic. She explained that although the patient was a Bhutanese, she was infected outside the country. “We still do not have any community transmission within the country.”

She said that because the patient and all those who had travelled with her on the same flight were already under quarantine, chances of spreading the disease to the public was almost negligible.

There were 21 passengers on board including the patient. The 11 crew members, now considered as the primary contacts of the patient are also on quarantine.

The 44 people identified as the secondary contacts (related to the crew members) have been asked to self-quarantine themselves at their respective homes.

Lyonpo said that as a precautionary measure, the government has made arrangements to put all those arriving in the country from abroad under a designated quarantine facility. “Nowhere in the world, there is a provision like this. They only practice home quarantine.”

There are 2,590 people under facility quarantine as of yesterday.  

Calling it a ‘gold standard’, the minister said that despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) not recommending testing to people without symptoms, in Bhutan all primary contacts irrespective of symptoms are tested.

However, she said that given the shortage of testing kits internationally, it was important to use the kits effectively based on scientific evidence. “There are many who have approached us requesting tests. We cannot go on doing random tests.”

As of yesterday, the health ministry has conducted 558 sample tests of which 25 were conducted in the last 24 hours. 

A total of 2,409,336 people have been screened on the ground while 11,612 were screened at the airport so far.  

Lyonpo added that there were no risks to the hotel staff including the health workers and police personnel deployed at the quarantine facility where the patient stayed.

“This is because the mode of transmission of this virus is not airborne. The virus is spread through aerosol droplets,” she said. “The health workers and police placed at the hotels don’t have physical contact with the suspects.”

Meanwhile, the 57-year-old American woman at the isolation ward is well and has started treatment for Covid-19 symptoms.