Full-blown local transmission looming?

Younten Tshedup

Following the report of the first local transmission of Covid-19 in Phuentsholing on August 16, and another two positive cases in Paro yesterday, the concern now is of a potential full-blown local outbreak.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during a live session on BBS television yesterday said that except for Gasa and Lhuentse, 1,673 people from the 18 dzongkhags have reportedly visited Phuentsholing on or after August 1.

Of the total who called the toll-free number 1,023 and registered themselves with the health ministry’s surveillance team so far, about 900 are in Thimphu. Also, almost 100 primary contacts of the positive cases in Phuentsholing (24 positive cases) are in Thimphu.

Lyonchhen said that the two people (59-year-old man and 44-year-old woman) who tested positive for Covid-19 in Paro yesterday had come in search of work to Paro from Phuentsholing on August 9.

Lyonchhen said that Paro for now (as of late evening yesterday) did not have any indication and evidence of a local transmission. Contact tracing is on-going in the dzongkhag.

However, he said that given the highly infectious nature of the virus, people should continue to be at their homes and cooperate with the officials.

Regarding Thimphu, Lyonchhen said that while there are a large number of people who have come from Phuentsholing since August 1 so far none have tested positive. As of yesterday, about 60 of the contacts tested negative.

Lyonchhen said that declaring Thimphu a red zone would depend on the test results. The results for all the tests should come in within a day or two, he added.

The implementation of the movement card in Thimphu Thromde is also suspended until the completion of the contact tracing and testing of all the contacts of Covid-19 positive individuals.

Meanwhile, a 40-year-old woman from Mongar tested positive on the rapid diagnostic test yesterday morning. She was in Phuentsholing with her husband who works there as a driver. The husband came to Mongar on July 27. The woman reached Mongar on July 31 along with their three children. Her RT-PCR result declared late last night came out negative.

Read:Woman tests negative on RT-PCR.    

Disease prevention is a priority for now 

Lyonchhen said that the lockdown so far has caused several inconveniences especially with the delivery of essential goods. However, he said that the priority for now should be on preventing and controlling the spread of the disease.

“There are issues and people are unhappy with the services so far in the lockdown. We are sorry for the inconveniences but everyone is working hard to improve the services on a daily basis and we are doing all we can for now.”

Lyonchhen said that in absence of a vaccine currently, the most effective tool to combat the pandemic is through effective lockdown and professionally testing the suspects.

The government is spending at least Nu 4,000 to test an individual.

Lyonchhen said financially it is very challenging but if money can protect and help keep the citizens safe, it is of least concern for now.

Besides adhering to the lockdown protocol, the Prime Minister urged the public to strictly follow preventive measures such as hand hygiene, wearing face masks and maintaining physical distance.

The country today has adequate and quality testing kits and equipment. The country will receive Nu 600 million worth of testing kits and equipment today. Another batch of testing kits will be flown in on August 23.

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