Will Bhutan ever know its source of Covid-19?

Yangchen C Rinzin

As Covid-19 reaches to interior parts of the country, the health ministry is unable to establish how and when the virus entered Phuentsholing, which is today a red zone.

According to Health Minister Dechen Wangmo like Bhutan, many countries are unable to track down patient zero or pinpoint individuals who may have been the first person to start spreading Covid-19.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said, “Epidemiologically, it will be difficult to prove the source for local transmission in Phuentsholing.”

Phuentsholing today has 41 people who are primary contacts of the 25-year-old loader, who was the first to test positive from the mini dry port.

However, during the active community surveillance of the  27,134 people tested, 25 tested positive. None of them was connected to the mini dry port case. This had confirmed the local transmission in Phuenthsoling and the town was declared a red zone.

Although Bhutan’s first local transmission (25-year-old loader) is technically an imported case, health minister during a press briefing yesterday, said that the source of infection and local transmission in the country cannot be established.

“It’ll depend on time but it’ll not be easy to find how did the virus spread or where did they get it from,” Lyonpo said.

“We cannot pinpoint the index case and conclude they triggered the outbreak.”

Patient zero or the index case refers to the first person to be infected by the Covid-19 in an outbreak in a community and spread the virus.

Lyonpo said that based on the cases in Phuentsholing, the health ministry although not concluded, calls the source as a cluster of a specific population and well contained areas.

This will let to exact primary contacts and its details. 

For instance, one cluster is a mini dry port where the loader tested positive, as all the positive people were in the same unit. Another cluster was the 16 positive cases detected from Project DANTAK and one from IMTRAT in Phuentsholing.

“It’s still a cluster (mode of transmission)- where positive cases are coming from a specific place,” Lyonpo said. “If we’re to find out whether mini dry port workers got it from Project DANTAK or vice-versa, it will not be easy to prove.”

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