The source of the outbreak in the school is not known

Nima | Gelephu

The main gate leading to Kuendrup Higher Secondary School in Gelephu is closed and the campus was cordoned after the school reported some of the highest numbers of Covid-19 positive cases from the red clusters in Sarpang.

The playgrounds and open spaces where students engaged in football matches and other sports after long hours in school have been empty and abandoned for almost one week now.

The school has come to a standstill and is silent throughout the day.

The hostels are currently used as isolation facilities, managed by seven staff, after cooks and staff looking after the students during the lockdown were exposed to Covid-19 last week.

A cook working in the school tested positive on January 27, and 72 boarding students and staff working on the campus tested positive the next day. There are over 130 active cases in the school to date.

A student who tested positive from Kuendrup HSS said he was worried when the school was hit with the virus. “I did not feel alone because most of the students in the school were exposed to the virus. I get a fever and chills sometimes, and feel exhausted too.

He said that the support and service in the school has improved over the week. “Teachers and de-suups are on campus now. We feel comforted. But, we are worried about the board examination. It is difficult to concentrate on studies while in isolation.”

After cooks and staff looking after the students tested positive on January 28, two students volunteered to cook in the initial days.

The school principal, Karma Rigzin, said that the school managed to send in new staff to facilitate and support students in isolation. “All positive cases are isolated and things are improving. We are working closely with the dzongkhag task force.”

He said that the school created a group on social media to stay in touch with students and provide required guidance while in isolation. “The students have not shown any severe symptoms so far.”

The source? 

The school management said it was difficult to know how the school was exposed to the virus.

They said two officials from the school were tested for Covid-19 during the mass testing conducted from January 17 in Gelephu and both tested negative.

Almost two weeks after the initiation of mass surveillance, Kuendrup HSS reported the first positive case on January 28.

Students with symptoms were taken to the isolation ward in Gelephu Central Regional Referral Hospital.

A school staff looking after the students inside the campus said there has been no movement of students since the lockdown.

“No cases were reported from the school during the mass testing,” he said.

Karma Rigzin said a group of frontline workers stayed in the school during the lockdown for three nights. They left the campus on January 19.

“The school started to detect positive cases 10 days after the frontline workers left the school, but none of the frontline workers tested positive so far. The source of the virus is not from them,” he said.

Officials also said two staff tested negative from the school when frontline workers were on the campus during the mass surveillance. “There was no contact between the officials and students.”

However, the proprietor of the school, Lobzang, said the school could have been saved from the outbreak if the school management had been careful while handling the situation. “There were other empty spaces we could have used for accommodation.”

He said the dzongkhag has supported them with vegetables and essential supplies. “We isolated the cases immediately and deployed new staff to work on the campus.”

Meanwhile, Sarpang reported five new cases yesterday, one of the lowest case numbers recorded in one day since the dzongkhag reported its first community case on January 16.