Five positive cases detected from the community since April 16

Younten Tshedup

Local transmission of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Phuentsholing following the detection of three more cases from the community on April 17.

According to sources, another mother and her son have tested positive for Covid-19 from the National Housing Development Corporation Ltd’s (NHDCL) housing colony in Toorsa, Phuentsholing on April 17. Details of the third individual are being confirmed.

The first case of local transmission in Phuentsholing was recorded after a 10-year-old student and her mother, who reside at the Toorsa temporary settlement, tested positive on April 16.

The mother and son, however, may not be the first case (index case) this time. Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that in an outbreak situation, it was always difficult to point out patient zero or the first infected person.

Health officials said that Covid-19 was an imported disease and the only source of such disease was via the points of entry — southern border or international airport.

With positive cases detected from the NHDCL colony, the index case, for now, could be either from the colony or the temporary settlement in Toorsa. This would be possible given the close proximity of the two settlements to the Bhutan-India border.

Health officials are currently testing desuups, residents of NHDCL colony, mini dry port, and public transport drivers in Phuentsholing.

About 200 samples collected on April 17 from the temporary settlement in Toorsa including samples of classmates and teachers of the 10-year-old boy, all tested negative. There are more than 2,900 people living in Toorsa.

Also, primary contacts of the mother and son traced in Thimphu, Samtse, and Phuentsholing tested negative to Covid-19 on April 17. 

As of 6pm yesterday, no new cases were detected from the community.  

Meanwhile, concerns were raised after it was learnt that the mother of 10-year-old and the three frontline workers (two desuups and a policewoman) contracted the virus despite getting the vaccine. 

Health experts said that although the vaccination had the potential to shield individuals from getting infected by the virus, it did not guarantee 100 percent protection in all those who received the jab. 

“The effectiveness and the importance of having the vaccine are that it would protect people from developing severe symptoms if infected by the virus,” said an official. “Even with the vaccine some people will get infected but he or she will not become seriously ill from the disease.” 

He added that for Bhutanese, it was too early to see the impact of the vaccine since the second dose was still due. “Two weeks after the booster dose, only then will a person be considered fully vaccinated and only then he or she would have developed adequate antibodies against the virus.” 

Until then, he said the vaccine would not be effective. “The best bet is to follow public health measures like mask-wearing, practising physical distancing and regularly washing hands.”