Younten Tshedup 

No new cases were detected from the community — from flu clinics or through mass surveillance in the last 48 hours.

The 29 new local cases detected in the last two days (December 29 and 30) were all among the close contacts of those who had tested positive earlier.

This could mean that the national taskforce’s decision to lockdown the country for the second time has proven effective in breaking the chain of transmission. Following the detection of the index case in Thimphu on December 19 from the flu clinic, the capital city was put under lockdown the next morning.

Chairperson of the health ministry’s technical advisory group (TAG), Dr Sithar Dorjee yesterday said that the detection of a large number of positive cases in a span of three days after the index case indicated that the virus was spreading in the community for a while.

“Although an extreme measure and a last resort, the lockdown was enforced to break the chain of transmission,” he said.

During the risk period, from December 7 to 20, the epidemiologist said that over 100,000 people had travelled outside Thimphu (epicenter) to almost all the 19 dzongkhags. On an average, around 7,000 people moved outside the capital city to other parts of the country daily.

“Had we delayed the lockdown even by a day, the virus could have spread further to the rest of the country,” he said, adding that although it was an extreme measure, lockdown was necessary to break the chain of transmission.

Ten days after the capital city was locked down, Dr Sithar Dorjee said that health experts have fairly established the extent of the spread of the virus. During the mass surveillance conducted in Thimphu, over 8,000 people were randomly selected and tested.

Of the total tested, 18 individuals tested positive to the virus, which was equivalent to 0.2 percent of the population. 

“We now know the pulse of the epidemic and while the spread has been quite alarming, we are confident that the transmission is not that extensive.”

The epidemiologist said that based on the results from the random test, the ministry would soon sweep the entire clusters from where positive cases have been detected. “This is an efficient and cost-effective method in the present situation.”

At the same time, targeted risk groups were also tested including frontline workers and public transportation drivers. Possible high-risk groups and places in the south including the mini dry port in Phuentsholing and people at the entry points were also tested. None tested positive from these groups.

As a part of the passive surveillance, people are continuously being tested at the flu clinics across the country.