As additional strategy to  prevent community transmission

Younten Tshedup 

In the wake of increasing positive Covid-19 cases in the country, the health ministry will start conducting periodic testing of high-risk communities and frontline responders along the border areas starting May 18.

The ministry will reinforce its three Ts – Testing, Tracing and Treatment strategy with additional measures.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo during a press briefing yesterday said the measures are being implemented following an assessment according to which the border areas were identified as high-risk communities.

Under the tracing strategy, people are encouraged to use the Druk Trace app or a registry in all public places including public transport. Lyonpo said that restrictions on public movement would be enforced after 7pm along the borders.

She said that for people who need to travel, besides collecting details of the passengers, screening for fever at strategic check posts between borders districts and other interior districts would also be enforced. 

“We will then conduct rapid test if they have fever and also document contact information and travel history of all travellers.”

For effective and timely treatment, Lyonpo said that adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) including essential medicine and health human resources has already been supplied in all the border health centres.

While reinforcing the physical distancing arrangement, the ministry also recommends the use of face mask especially to people living along the southern border while going out in public spaces including health facilities and markets.


Quarantine protocol

Reassuring the public, the minister said that although numbers of positive cases are on the rise, the country still does not have a single community transmission. She said that a second level surveillance that includes constantly monitoring people who have completed their 21-day mandatory quarantine is also underway.

“We have been requesting people who have completed their quarantine to stay home at least for a week but not many follow that,” Lyonpo said, adding that once people come out, they are seen celebrating the completion of the quarantine period. “Despite our constant reminder people are still seen breaching the quarantine protocols. We cannot have Desuups, police or Kudungs after them.”

The minister said that one of the positive cases while at quarantine centre has exchanged food with her neighbour, risking further transmission.

Clinical microbiologist with the national referral hospital, Dr Tshokey said that some of the positive cases are detected only at the end of the quarantine period, which puts risk on others in the same facility if they have not followed the quarantine rules. 

He explained that when two people breach the quarantine protocol and interact through exchange of food other goods, there is no guarantee that the second person is not infected, even if he tests negative, in the event of the first person testing positive on the 22nd day.

Dr Tshokey said that because the two have been in close contact, even if one have tested negative, it could be false negative since the person can still be in incubation period.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that it is of paramount importance that people in quarantine adhere to the protocol for their own protection and for the safety of the community that would be returning to. “Although the cases are increasing, as long as people behave inside the quarantine centres, there should not be any major risk.”

However, she said that despite the ministry’s notification and advisories there were seven people who breached the quarantine protocol.

Meanwhile, with the detection of a new positive case in a 29-year-old woman who had recently returned from the Middle East, Bhutan’s Covid-19 tally stands at 21 as of yesterday. Of the total, seven are male and the rest female.