Voluntary task force takes over responsibility to help patients

Rinzin Wangchuk

The number of new coronavirus cases has reached alarming rates in New York City, the epicentre of the pandemic in the United States, but the recovery rate among Bhutanese patients is encouraging.

Of the four patients who were quarantined after discharging from the hospital in the Big Apple, one has fully recovered and was sent home on April 27. This brings the total number of recovered patients to four in New York.  The other three patients, who also recovered, are in home-quarantine.

Ten Bhutanese tested positive for coronavirus since March 27. Although three are still kept in an isolation facility, they are in stable condition. One patient is also home quarantined and recovering, according to a member of the task force.

On the command of His Majesty The King, the task force has rented two apartments earlier this month to be used as a quarantine facility for Bhutanese affected by the virus in New York.

Three patients were kept in one apartment and the fourth one, who recovered after 15 days in isolation, was kept in the second apartment, which also houses three task force members on the ground floor.

The seven-member task force formed to monitor the situation within the Bhutanese community members, provide support and relief efforts to affected members. The task force also provides situational reports to relevant government agencies, raise and manage funds and provided vital support to community members.

Taskforce members said that they are providing all the essential supplies at the quarantine facility. “We also cook and provide meals to our patients,” one member living at the quarantine apartment, said. A Bhutanese practising nurse in New York is also monitoring patients at the quarantine facility twice a week.

Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji last week told Kuensel that on the command of His Majesty The King, the foreign ministry informed the Permanent Mission of Bhutan to the United Nations to render financial support for the quarantine facility that the task force has rented. “However, we were informed that the Bhutanese community in New York has been managing the rents themselves,” the foreign minister said.

One task force member told Kuensel that they came together to support the task force morally and financially. “At present, Bhutan is going through a difficult time because of the pandemic, we don’t want to burden our King and the government when it comes to cost,” he said.

The Bhutanese community supported the task force by mobilising funds to support the patients at the quarantine facility.

The task force also plays the role of health advisory among the Bhutanese community based on the guidelines issued by local authorities. A member said that they received four or five reports saying that they may be affected by the virus.

Taskforce members said the guidelines issued in New York discourage people to get tested for Covid-19 if one has mild to moderate symptoms. In such a case, one has to stay home only.

The advisory guidelines stated that the testing should only be used for people who need to be hospitalised for severe illness like pneumonia.

The US has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with cases crossing 1,010,507 and 56,803 deaths as of yesterday evening. New York City has more than 160,500 cases with 11,460 confirmed deaths.

Meanwhile, four other Bhutanese who were tested positive for Covid-19 in the Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Doha in Qatar and Mumbai, India are recovering well, according to foreign minister.