… residents who have travelled to Phuentsholing 

Yangchen C Rinzin 


Thimphu residents who visited Phuentsholing, the town which is a red zone, will be tested for Covid-19 at the testing stations beginning today. The health ministry has identified 10 stations in seven super zones of the thromde.

These residents have travelled to Phuentsholing on or after August 1 till date.

Following a local transmission in Phuentsholing, the health ministry asked all who travelled to Phuentsholing to report through the toll-free number1023. A total of 3,673 people had registered with the health ministry.

Those coming for the test have to use the movement pass. Health surveillance team will call the residents whose super zones are not reflected in the movement pass.

With a large number of residents registering for the test, it has become challenging for health officials to continue with door-to-door testing.  Of the total registered, more than 1,000 are in Thimphu.

If a person does not receive one’s test result within 72 hours, it means the individual tested negative.

Clinical Microbiologist Dr Tshokey said that their plan to test each individual at home since August 17 was ambitious and became challenging.

The testing team could not connect with some residents as their phones were either switched off or did not respond. Locating the address of the residents was the biggest challenge for the surveillance team.

“This is why we had to change the testing strategy and come up with testing centres. The number of people registering for the test indicates that people did not heed to the ministry’s appeal and travelled freely.”

More than 600 have been tested in Thimphu so far, and all the tests had come negative. About 98 were primary contacts of the index case in Phuentsholing, but all tested negative.    

Dr Tshokey said that with one more positive case detected in Phuentsholing thromde last evening, the total number of positive cases is now 151 with 44 active cases. The person was detected during the ongoing community mass surveillance.

He said there are now 34 active cases in Phuentsholing, two in Gelephu and eight in National Referral Hospital in Thimphu. “Since the majority of the cases are from Phuentsholing, mass surveillance was carried out based on risk assessment,” Dr Tshokey said. “Two people from each household are being tested.”

There are about 28,000 residents in Phuentsholing. The 20 teams carrying out the surveillance has collected samples from 11,329 and out of which 7,281 samples have been tested and the rest is yet to be tested. From tests until now, five cases tested positive.

Of the 949 primary contacts of the first positive case detected at the mini dry port in Phuentsholing traced in 12 dzongkhags, about 600 have already been tested.

However, five positive cases were detected in Paro, and two of them were the primary contacts of the index case in Phuentsholing. Dr Tshokey said that based on population density and high-risk zone, mass screening was conducted at Bondey town since yesterday.

Dr Tshokey said that all the positive patients in isolation are in stable condition, and no one is on the ventilator. “Although health ministry had advised people to use masks and wash hands or to practice health safety protocols, not many followed.”

He added that scientifically, it is not necessary to test the entire population because a representative sampling would suffice. He said that the Druk Trace App has helped health officials in contact tracing and urged everyone to use it.