MB Subba

The government should consider increasing the quarantine period from the existing 14 days, the joint parliamentary committee on novel coronavirus (Covid-19) preparedness and response recommended yesterday.

The recommendation was made in view of the existing epidemiological evidence about the Covid-19 having shown that it is difficult to confirm within two weeks if a person was infected with the virus.

The committee, which comprises members from both houses of Parliament, also recommended the government to extend the quarantine period by enhancing the clarity of the quarantine protocols. The committee stated that home quarantine could also be extended.

The recommended has been submitted to the prime minister.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel and the National Council Chairperson Tashi Dorji attended the sixth meeting held yesterday in the National Assembly conference hall.

The joint committee chair Dorji Wangdi said that the quarantine period of 14 days prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) was minimum.

According to health advisories, symptoms appear within two to 14 days after contracting the virus.

However, the country’s second Covid-19 case was detected days after the patient, an American tourist had completed the 14-day quarantine period. The patient had come into contact with her infected partner before she was taken to the quarantine.

According to the WHO’s recommendation, contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases should be quarantined for 14 days from the last time they were exposed to a Covid-19 patient.

The WHO states that staying in the same close environment of a Covid-19 patient, including workplace, classroom, household, gatherings, travelling together in close proximity of one metre with a Covid-19 patient in any kind of conveyance makes a person exposed to the virus.

The meeting also recommended the government to consider online teaching initiatives only for engagement and learning for students, not for summative assessment for now with appropriate awareness.

The committee meeting noted that even though there is a restriction on the movement of monks to their own premises instead of closing down, the incidents of some being compelled to go out to perform rituals on the demands of public and outsiders visiting some institutions were reported.

“We are appreciative of the government’s efforts in minimising the disruption in the learning of our students through online teaching initiatives. However, there seems to be confusion among parents and students whether online teaching would lead to summative assessments,” the committee said.

It recommended the government to ensure uniform and strict implementation of preventive measures.

The committee also recommended the government to explore the possibility of providing counselling services by both health and spiritual professionals through appropriate means. The committee said that it is possible that some people, especially youth under quarantine, could go through mental health issues.

The committee recommended the government to ensure uniform implementation of preventive measures strictly.

Participants said that although monastic institutions have agreed to restrict the movement of monks, there are reports that some have been compelled to go out to perform rituals on the demands of public and that there are also cases of outsiders visiting some institutions.