Thimphu Covid-19 outbreak 10 times bigger than the last outbreak 

Younten Tshedup

An individual who tested positive from the flu clinic in Thimphu yesterday had visited several locations including some places away from their own zone, despite existing lockdown protocol.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that as of last night the ministry has traced around 50 people as the individual’s close contacts. This according to the minister was unacceptable given the active transmission of the virus in the community.

She said that the threat of the outbreak this time was at a more serious level. “An entire family including elders and infants have been infected with the virus this time,” she said, adding that 44 households in Thimphu were ‘quite badly’ affected.

The outbreak in the last 18 days has infected 297 Bhutanese as compared to 144 (66 Bhutanese and 78 non-Bhutanese) positive cases during the outbreak in Phuentsholing that lasted over 93 days.

Health officials said that the data collected so far indicated the current outbreak in Thimphu to be 10 times bigger than the Phuentsholing outbreak in August. On average, the country detects about 17 positive cases daily. Majority of these cases are from Thimphu.

The current outbreak had spread quite extensively across the capital city with almost 10 individuals testing positive to the virus from the 14 high-risk clusters that were screened in Thimphu.

There are 65 buildings in Thimphu, where positive cases have been detected. The health ministry has tested residents in 53 of these buildings so far from which five individuals tested positive for the virus.

“We understand that the lockdown has caused major inconveniences and many are bored staying home,” the minister said.   

“However, we urge residents in Thimphu to follow the lockdown protocol strictly. Do not visit others and also do not entertain any visitors, including relatives or close friends. Visitors will only bring in the virus.”

Lyonpo recently said that every resident in Thimphu and Paro must consider themselves as infected, until proven otherwise. Of the 297 cases detected so far, almost 27 percent of them were asymptomatic. Meaning, despite contracting the virus, these individuals did not show any symptoms but equally contributed to the spread of the disease.

Of the 21 new cases detected in the last 24 hours, an active frontline worker in Lamgong, Paro tested positive from the flu clinic. This also means that Paro, like Thimphu, still has active transmission in the community.

Lyonpo said that all frontline workers were tested for Covid-19 before they were deployed for duty. All contacts of the person have been traced.

Seventeen close contacts in Thimphu also tested positive from Changzamtog, Lungtenphu, Simtokha, Dechencholing, and Babesa areas. One resident each from Yangchenphug and Babesa tested positive from the flu clinics. One of them had come for testing at the Changlimithang flu clinic before travelling to Phuentsholing.

The minister also reminded those in the green zones to be extra careful despite the implementation of the smart unlocking protocol beginning yesterday. “We will conduct randomise testing in these places after seven to eight days. Accordingly, the next phase of unlocking would be considered.”