Stopping community transmission isn’t impossible 

The nationwide lockdown that enters the ninth day today has caused immense disruptions and discomfort. 

Even as many wish it to be lifted, it is not clear when it will be. But there is one thing that is crystal clear. It is in our own hands.  

That is the message the health minister and the prime minister have been trying to drive home. From the health point of view,  lockdown could ease when the pandemic is brought under control. And this can be done only with unconditional support from the public. The situation has changed. 

There is community transmission and as we know, it is difficult to control the spread without wholehearted cooperation of the people. However, it is not impossible. That is why those fighting on the frontline or planning in the background are urging us to help them by helping ourselves. Mass testing is on in Phuentsholing. About 6,500 of the 27,000 people in the border town has been tested. 

As of last night, primary contacts of the first case from the Mini Dry Port in Phuentsholing has reached 12 dzongkhags. Three positive cases are confirmed in Paro. The risk of a full-blown community transmission is imminent. People from all over the country had been to Phuentsholing between August 1 and 11, the period health officials consider crucial after detecting the first case outside a quarantine facility. About 900 were from the capital city.

By today or tomorrow, we would know the results of the 500 people who reported and tested for the virus. The concern is about those who are not reporting to health authorities of their travel history. If they are hiding and carrying the disease, all our efforts and resources will have gone to waste. Health Minister Dechen Wangmo yesterday said that the situation is not good in Phuentsholing. What is more worrying is when she said that epidemiologically Thimphu and Phuentsholing are considered as one. 

This means that the most populated town is also at risk of reporting a case in the community.

Lyonchhen, the health minister and many others trying to help us stay safe are appealing for help at every opportunity. The appeals are nothing other than asking people to stay home, report their travel history, keep distance or wash our hands.  We should be able to do this. Tenants or neighbours, colleagues or community members reporting an individual with travel history to Phuentsholing, for instance, is a great service to the nation fighting a pandemic. 

With community transmission confirmed, priorities have changed. The health ministry would prioritise minimising the impact or prevent deaths. 

Each Bhutanese can play a great part in fulfilling this priority.

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