Thimphu’s lockdown duration would depend on test results which would be made available later today.
A total of 2,087 people in the capital were tested as of 6pm yesterday, after an eight-year-old student of Druk School tested positive for Covid-19 on the antigen test on June 12.
The boy and his parents, who tested negative on the confirmatory RT-PCR test on June 12 would be tested again today.
Although the boy tested negative on the confirmatory RT-PCR, Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that because the child had a high viral load, in anticipation of a possible outbreak, the entire capital city was placed under a complete lockdown for three days beginning 6pm on June 12.
According to health officials, given the high viral load detected in the boy, as per the book, he should have tested positive even on the RT-PCR. However, the official said that this was not always the case.
“Despite all the quality assurance taken in the test kits, there are always limitations which we cannot overlook,” he said. “There are possibilities of other pathogens mimicking the virus in question. Therefore, we will be testing them again today.”
It was learnt that the student had visited the flu clinic on Saturday with flu-like symptoms including cough and headache. Immediately following his results, other students and close contacts were home quarantined.
Extensive testing and screening of high-risk groups in Thimphu started yesterday.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering on Saturday said that the response was to maintain the highest level of prevention for all, considering the fact that it was a student and the reading on antigen was very high to take any chances.
“Today is another reality for all of us,” he said. “I request everyone to cooperate and give us support to stop the spread of the disease, just as you did so far.”
Even before the health minister’s announcement on the lockdown, people thronged grocery stores and vegetable markets. All highways within the capital were jammed until 9pm as people rushed back home. Several minor accidents were also reported from multiple locations.
Movement for both vehicles and residents were allowed throughout the night on June 12. While it facilitated people to return home, if they were stranded during the lockdown announcement, observers say that these few hours of panic rush could have multiplied the transmission rate, if in case the virus was circulating in the community.
“Although an immediate response was required, personally, I thought the timing of the announcement was a bit off,” said one. “The announcement could have been made at night when everyone was at home because no sooner did the minister announce lockdown, there was a mad rush to buy food items.”
Another resident said that a lockdown in Thimphu was imminent given the level of complacency among people. “We have all been warned, time and again, to be prepared for a lockdown anytime. Judging from last night’s reaction, we were never prepared.”
He added that besides common individuals there were high-level government officials including some Members of Parliament rushing for food essentials. “I hope I’m wrong, but if one individual was infected in this group, it would have multiplied by 50-60 times now.”
By Younten Tshedup
Edited by Tshering Palden