Following 12 new positive cases detected yesterday 

Younten Tshedup 

With growing concerns that there could be a possible community infection in Phuentsholing, the government has declared the drungkhag as a red zone.

While the government maintained that technically there was no local transmission of the virus since the enforcement of lockdown on August 11, the decision was taken following the detection of 12 new Covid-19 positive cases yesterday.

The new cases are the primary contacts of the 25-year-old man who tested positive from the RRCO’s mini dry port (MDP) in Phuentsholing on August 11.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that although the individuals were placed in a quarantine-like facility before they tested positive, there was no guarantee that they would not have breached the guidelines.

Given the risk the individuals (about 140) working at the MDP as loaders had, the task force in Phuentsholing had restricted their movement by placing all the workers together in a hostel without any outside contact.

Lyonchhen said that despite the quarantine measures put in place, some of them could have sneaked out into the community. Considering the possibilities, he said that comprehensive investigation for a community outbreak of the virus in Phuentsholing was required.

For this, the prime minister said that Phuentsholing would be considered a red zone until all the contacts of positive cases are thoroughly tested.

While the entire nation remains under a lockdown, starting yesterday additional restrictions and surveillance has been enforced in the drungkhag.

All essential movements to and from Phuentsholing will have to undergo stringent Covid-19 screening at the Rinchending checkpoint.

More than 420 primary contacts were traced for the 25-year-old as of late evening yesterday.

Officials from the health ministry said that it was very likely that the primary contacts of the 12 new positive cases would also be the same as all of them had reportedly not moved out of the quarantine facility at the MDP.

There were no secondary contacts as of yesterday.

Risk assessment was carried out but those falling under high risk were moved to primary contacts and those under minimal risks screened out.

With all essential imports currently entering the country through Phuentsholing, Lyonchhen said local transmission in Phuentsholing would pose a serious challenge to the country.

The lockdown duration could be extended if the situation there deteriorates.

Meanwhile, the health ministry has completed mapping around 390 people in Shershong, Sarpang where the index case in Gelephu (27-year-old woman) tested positive.   

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the ministry would start testing the representative of the population (50 percent) that would include elderlies, young and people with comorbidities, among others.

The test will start today.

The ministry has traced a total of 339 primary and secondary contacts of the 27-year-old woman. None of the contacts have tested positive to the virus so far.

Lyonpo said that the chances of spreading the virus were high if an infected person is symptomatic. “This is because the viral load of the individual is high which is why they become infectious.”

All the 12 new cases in Phuentsholing are asymptomatic for now.