Younten Tshedup 

The health ministry last night clarified that there were no new Covid-19 positive cases as of yesterday, and requested the public to stop spreading false information.

The notification follows rumours that there would be another lockdown in Thimphu following a positive case in the capital. Rumours spread that a frontline worker arriving from one of the southern dzongkhags had tested positive. However, no new cases were reported during the weekend.

The health ministry last night shared that announcements of positive cases were made only after the RT-PCR results were compiled. This was in line with the ministry’s Covid-19 testing protocol.

“Ministry of Health confirms that as of 8pm October 4, were no new positive cases in Thimphu. We request public to refrain from sharing fake news and false information about probable lockdowns,” stated the clarification.

This however is not the first time that the ministry had to issue a clarification following a similar rumour.Last month, a similar rumour surfaced after an individual tested positive on the rapid antigen test at national referral hospital’s emergency ward. The individuals however, tested negative on confirmatory RT-PCR test.

The case (antigen positive) at the emergency ward was one of the many stray cases health officials have come across recently. However, there is little to worry about such incidences, according to experts.

Clinical microbiologist with the national referral hospital, Dr Tshokey, in an earlier interview said that although there were a few incidences where people had tested positive during the rapid antigen test, none of these individuals were positive on the RT-PCR.

This was mainly because of the reading (cut-off index) set on the antigen analyser machine. Any reading above 1 on the cut-off index gave positive results.

Dr Tshokey explained that those individuals testing positive on the antigen test had readings of 1.05, 2 and sometimes 3. These readings, he said, were low and borderline readings.

So far only those who had readings above 20 and 30 on the antigen analyser machine have tested positive on the confirmatory RT-PCR test. “We have had these kinds of cases in most of the hospitals and none of the individuals tested positive so far, even after repeating the RT-PCR test after 24 hours,” said Dr Tshokey.

The issue has been conveyed to the manufacturers of the test kits in South Korea.

Members of the ministry’s technical advisory group (TAG) have said that as long as the confirmation of Covid-19 cases are done through the reliable RT-PCR, the rapid antigen and antibody tests are used as a screening mechanism.

Meaning, anything suspicious has to be routed through the PCR for confirmation. Also, experts said that a false positive case is better than a false negative case.

Dr Tshokey said, “What is important for us is that we are taking no chances. Anyone testing positive on the antigen test, we confirm it by doing a RT-PCR test. And if needed, we repeat the RT-PCR in 24 hours.”