Nima | Gelephu

Sarpang yesterday started to unlock phase-wise and the dzongkhag would reinstate the containment measures such as mandatory seven-day quarantine for outbound travellers from today.

Without any positive cases detected from flu clinics, mass screening or contact tracing carried out during the nationwide lockdown, the dzongkhag was declared a green zone.

However, it falls under the high-risk zone for Covid-19, considering the outbreak threats from the long porous border it shares with the neighbouring State of Assam, India.

Gelephu central regional referral hospital Medical Superintendent, Dr Dorji Tshering said the outbreak risk is imminent given the movement by illegal routes easily accessible since most of the seasonal streams and rivers have dried.

“It would be challenging for the frontline responders and security officials to man those informal entry points,” he said.

He added that the mandatory quarantine is the only way to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread. “There are 90 percent chances of detecting the case if they are tested after seven days period.”

The official said the border checkpoint, which was the main risk for a possible outbreak initially, was well-secured and operates in containment mode.

More than 5,000 individuals from high-risk areas, frontliners, incoming travellers, and individuals from the villages close to borders were tested for Covid-19 in the dzongkhag during the lockdown.

Mass screening was done based on random sampling.

During the mass screening and surveillance, two or three individuals tested positive on antigen tests daily. However, all tested negative on the RT-PCR tests and repeat tests were done to confirm the results.

Dr Dorji Tshering said the antigen test is known to be highly sensitive and captures lots of cases. “It also shows some false positive cases. It is just a screening test and for the confirmatory, we have to subject to the RT-PCR test,” he said.

The contact tracing and surveillance team would be conducting another round of mass screening starting from January 10 and complete the testing before transitioning to the next phase of unlocking.

The dzongkhag taskforce allowed all government offices to open but the offices in urban areas have to work at 50 percent capacity except for financial institutions.

Private training centers, schools, saloons, entertainment centers, swimming pools, organising tournaments, and social events involving more than six people are not allowed.

Non-contact sports such as badminton, tennis, and cycling are allowed without spectators. The monastic institution would operate in self-containment mode.

Religious activities and rituals would be allowed upon prior approval from the dzongkhag administration.

Dr Dorji Tshering said it was important to unlock in a controlled manner to ensure the country doesn’t fall into the track with other countries that rushed the unlocking process.

“We’ve to be doubly sure that we don’t suffer another lockdown and everybody should play a role to make it sure. We should not allow social events that favour mixing of large crowds,” he said.

The emergency and stranded travellers from other dzongkhags would be allowed to move upon the production of negative RT-PCR test results if originating from Thimphu and Paro, and antigen test results if originating from other green zones, according to the task force.