As Phuentsholing records more positive Covid-19 cases from the community

Younten Tshedup 

A third nationwide lockdown looms large as two more from the community tested positive for Covid-19 in Phuentsholing yesterday.

A 36-year-old man working in one of the factories in Pasakha, Phuentsholing tested positive for the virus yesterday. Later, it was learnt that his wife too tested positive. 

Sources said that the man had developed symptoms since April 14 but visited the flu clinic yesterday, after four days (on April 18). As primary contacts, his family members were also tested. As of yesterday, only his wife tested positive.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that the family members had been quarantined and the rest of the workers at the factory were being tested. 

It was learnt that there were more than 70 workers at the factory, currently working in containment mode after the lockdown. The last time the man went to work was on April 16. He had also received the vaccination earlier this month. 

Following the recent rumour of another nationwide lockdown, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said, “As of today, there is no lockdown, but tomorrow, I don’t know.” Given the volatile situation due to the outbreak in Phuentsholing, Lyonpo said that there were no guarantees.

She said that the entire family — father, mother and son — had been infected at the National Housing Development Corporation Ltd.’s colony in Phuentsholing on April 17. “They were symptomatic and had come to the flu clinic where they tested positive.”  

Lyonpo said that the ministry was studying the possible source of the infection in the community and the taskforce in Phuentsholing was also looking for any possible breach in the protocol.   

“Testing is ongoing in the communities and we are also testing those emergency travellers who have moved out of Phuentsholing in the last couple of days,” she said, adding that the surveillance had been enhanced and over 5,000 people were tested in the last two days.

In the meantime, despite the outbreak in Phuentsholing, business is as usual in the capital city. Hotels and restaurants are cramped, the Norzin Lam is bustling, and people in groups are seen strolling the streets without facemasks. 

Lyonpo said that while people are casual about the current situation, the three million-plus Covid-19 deaths globally was a reality that people must understand. “The reality is that we have a weak health system in the country, and the ICU services in the country is very limited. That’s a reality.”   

Should a full-blown Covid-19 outbreak hit the country, she said that the country will suffer. “With new variants emerging, we have very limited information on these variants. For now, globally, there are five variants of concern. Until we are clear about the variants and their implications, we cannot let our guards down.”

She said that going by the situation in India, the new variant was highly transmissible, which was why the rate of transmission was much faster. “If you are infected, the severity is much higher this time. And, the new variant also tends to attack the younger population.” 

Lyonpo added that vaccination does not prevent an individual from getting Covid-19. “People must understand this. The vaccine will help in reducing the severity of the disease, but you can still be infected,” she said. “Vaccine is not the silver bullet. That is why we cannot afford to be complacent at this stage.” 

Health officials said that people must practice the safety protocols —wearing facemasks, social distancing, and washing hands frequently —at all costs.