Vaccination programme readied and submitted to National Covid-19 Taskforce

Younten Tshedup 

With the completion of the 21 days of the second nationwide lockdown, the health ministry has started mass surveillance in dzongkhags other than Thimphu yesterday.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that randomised testing would be conducted in these dzongkhags to find the presence of the virus. “Not everyone in the dzongkhags would be tested but only those high-risk people like frontliners, drivers and businesses,” said Lyonpo.

Around 600 individuals in each dzongkhag would be randomly tested. Depending on the outcome of the surveillance, which would complete by January 14, further relaxation would be considered.

Lyonpo said that with a significant number of people testing positive to the virus on a daily basis in Thimphu, many were requesting for a mass testing in the community. However, she said that testing and screening should be evidence-based.

The minister explained that a randomised screening enabled the ministry to understand the risk associated with a particular cluster or community. “If there are positive cases in that cluster, then we sweep the entire area.”

Meanwhile, in the last 23 days since the detection of the index case, 365 Bhutanese contracted the disease with 12 new cases in the last 24 hours. Although the daily case detection was high, Lyonpo said that the good news was there were no cases detected from the community.

She said that in the last three days all the positive cases were from among the close contacts of those who have already tested positive earlier. “We are certain that most of the close contacts would test positive which is why they are quarantined,” she said, adding that the concern was when cases were picked from the communities including the flu clinics.

Paro dzongkhag has not recorded any Covid-19 positive cases from the flu clinics or the community in the past 10 days.     

Without a single case from the community for three straight days, the minister said the situation was improving for now.

Of the total 365 cases detected since December 20, 26 of them were above the age of 60 years including 16 people with pre-existing medical conditions. Four Covid-19 patients currently required dialysis service and were treated separately in containment. These categories of people are generally vulnerable to the infection.

There are also 45 children below the age of 12 years who have contracted the virus.

Lyonpo said that although a majority of the patients have shown some symptoms, around 25 percent of the infected were asymptomatic. “If you have any flu-like symptoms, please visit the flu clinics before the virus spreads to others.” So far, the flu clinics in Thimphu and Paro picked up 25 positive cases.

The minister added a detailed plan for procuring Covid-19 vaccine was presented to the national Covid-19 taskforce yesterday. However, in absence of an effective vaccine, Lyonpo urged the public to follow health preventive measures such as hand washing, wearing face masks and practicing physical distancing.