…following local transmission in multiple places 

Younten Tshedup 

With local transmission of Covid-19 confirmed, the country will enter into a nationwide lockdown for seven days starting today.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering last night announced the lockdown following the detection of sporadic positive cases from flu clinics in Thimphu (five), Paro (three) and Lhamoizingkha (one) in Dagana yesterday.

The decision comes three days after detecting a positive case in Thimphu (25-year-old) from a flu clinic on December 19. The incident triggered a complete lockdown of the capital city from December 20.

The nine new cases for now, were not linked to the 25-year-old woman or any of her contacts who tested positive in the last few days. These people had visited the flu clinics with symptoms in their respective dzongkhags.

The government had also imposed restrictions on all inter-dzongkhag travel earlier yesterday.

Lyonchhen said that in absence of an effective vaccine, lockdown for now was the only means to break the chain of transmission and control the spread. Despite all the inconveniences, it was also to establish the extent of transmission in different communities.

He said that in doing so, His Majesty The King had commanded that the lockdown should be enforced in a manner that it causes minimum inconvenience to the public. “The government will strive to work towards that.”

Dzongdags and thrompons will lead the lockdown enforcements and ensure smooth implementation of the zone system in their respective dzongkhags and thromdes, the prime minister said. They would also decide the time to activate the zone system today.

All other support and actions will be carried out in close consultation with the national taskforce and the zoning team.

In Thimphu, delivery of essentials would start today (end of 72 hours) with the activation of the zone system. This means that people can come out with their cards in their respective zones to buy essentials from designated shops. However, zone relaxation would not apply to houses under isolation.

Lyonchhen also urged people to come out of their homes “only if it was absolutely necessary,” as it was still unclear how widespread the virus was in the capital city.

While only designated shops within the zones and essential services will be available, all schools, institutions, offices and business establishments will remain closed.

Lyonchhen said that relevant agencies will ensure that there are no disruptions in supply of goods, vegetables and other essential items, including animal feed, within the country. The government would also facilitate and ensure minimum disruption in import and export of all goods.


Way forward 

Although the lockdown duration for now is seven day, Lyonchhen said that based on the pattern of disease transmission, the way forward would be determined. This time he said that there are obvious indications of rampant local transmission and urged people to take maximum precaution.

Considering the threats, the prime minister said that on the command of His Majesty The King, thorough testing would be done in the capital city with the introduction of mass testing of the residents soon. The mass testing would be done by taking representational samples. Details are still being worked on.

Since December 19, over 5,300 people were tested of which 28 of them have tested positive so far. In Thimphu, between 15,000 and 20,000 people would be tested to see the extent of the spread of the virus.

Lyonchhen added that there are adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and test kits enough to test over 100,000 people. The government has also made arrangements with South Korean manufactures to procure test kits to test over 500,000 people as and when it is required.

Meanwhile, around three Covid-19 patients are in serious condition. However, Lyonchhen said that the seriousness was not because of Covid-19, but due to their existing underlying condition as some of them were cancer patients.