24 new cases this month

Younten Tshedup  

After recording the biggest jump of five new cases within 24 hours on May 14 and three cases each on May 22, 24 and yesterday, Bhutan today has 31 Covid-19 positive cases, one of the lowest in the world.

While the number of positive cases has increased sharply this month, the rate at which people are recovering has also been encouraging. With six recovered and zero deaths so far, Bhutan’s recovery rate remains 100 percent.      

Eight more patients after testing negative twice within 24 hours have been moved to the de-isolation facility this week, taking the total number at the de-isolation to 14. There are 10 people in the isolation ward at the national referral hospital and one in Phuentsholing as of yesterday.

In Bhutan, a person is qualified as recovered only when he or she has tested negative twice in 24 hours and completes a two-week de-isolation period. At the end of the two weeks, if the person doesn’t have any symptoms, then only they are qualified as recovered.

This stringent practice is in line with the health ministry’s effort to prevent any local transmission of the virus.

Health officials said that in most of the countries these practices including the testing protocols are not followed, mainly due to the overwhelming number of cases.

Officials said that while some of the countries exercise the testing protocol, they let the patients go home if they do not show any symptoms.

“For us, a person is allowed to go home only after the completion of two weeks de-isolation and does not show any symptoms.”

All imported cases 

All the 31 cases in Bhutan are imported. Including the two American patients (case number one and two), the first five positive cases were from the USA and Europe. Starting from case number six until now, all the positive cases were detected in people returning from the Middle East.

Of the 25 positive cases from the Middle East, 14 of them have come from Dubai, six from Doha, Qatar and five from Kuwait. The 28th case detected on May 27 was a 24-year-old woman who had returned from India on May 26.

With the deteriorating condition across the world, the country started repatriating Bhutanese living abroad and so far over thousands of Bhutanese especially those living in the Middle East have returned to the country.

A Bhutanese who is currently in Kuwait said that although the situation is worsening by the day, he would prefer to remain there.

“I don’t want to risk taking one more positive case home. All of us are worried about the increasing cases here but I hope things will get better soon.”

He said that although most of the public spaces are closed in Kuwait, there are few places including the general grocery stores where business is as usual. “Our company wants us to keep working because there are people still visiting our stores.”

Another Bhutanese who had recently returned from Kuwait said that despite the lockdown imposed in the country, some of the companies where Bhutanese were employed are still operating.

She said that a partial curfew was imposed when the number of cases started to increase and people started buying goods online. “However, to deliver those online orders, the workers had to come to work as usual.”

She added that when the stores were closed, many Bhutanese workers were called to work at the warehouse. “We later learnt that there was a Covid-19 positive person working at the warehouse but none of us was informed about it.”

According to the World Health Organsiation (WHO) data, Kuwait has recorded 22,575 positive cases with 608 new cases as of May 27. Qatar, United Arab Emirates (Dubai) and Bahrain have recorded 47,207, 31,086 and 9,366 cases respectively as of May 27.

Meanwhile, 116 Bhutanese returned from Dubai on May 27. The repatriation flight arriving later today will bring 118 Bhutanese from Kuwait and 13 from Kathmandu.

Between June 4 and 11, 378 Bhutanese will return from Doha, USA, Europe, Kuwait, Bahrain and Dubai.