𝑳𝒚𝒐𝒏𝒄𝒉𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒔𝒂𝒚𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒂𝒍𝒔𝒐 𝒍𝒐𝒐𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒐 𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑪𝒐𝒗𝒊𝒅 𝒎𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒖𝒓𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒎𝒂𝒌𝒆 𝒂𝒑𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒑𝒓𝒊𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒂𝒅𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔 𝒅𝒆𝒑𝒆𝒏𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒊𝒕𝒖𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏
Amidst the government introducing relaxations to the ongoing lockdown and public pressure mounting, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering maintained that the restrictions will be lifted gradually and it all depends on the number of positive cases requiring hospitalization.
Meanwhile, of the total 20,116 confirmed covid-19 cases in the country since March 5, 2020, Bhutan has recorded nine Covid deaths in the country so far.
Prime Minister said that the government should be able to open in the next few weeks,
The first batch of relaxations began on March 13 after the end of the board examinations for Class 10 and 12 students. The second batch of relaxation was announced on the midnight of March 15.
Meanwhile, the prolonged restriction which began from February 23 is getting mixed reactions from the public. However, one thing is certain that the number of Covid-19 cases is rising in the country, and the unvaccinated children, people living with underlying medical conditions and elderly people are still at risk. Many worry about what might happen after the current restriction is lifted.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering told Business Bhutan that the government has redefined the disease burden from mere positive to symptomatic cases.
“Our ultimate policy is preventing preventable Covid deaths and we are closely following up the symptomatic cases and coordinating with their hospitalization rate,” said Lyonchhen.
The Prime Minister said the most infected will get away not knowing that they are infected and some will experience mild symptoms as the vaccination coverage is excellent and the Omicron variant is milder.
“We have deployed health teams to almost all corners of the country, newly identified 800 dedicated Covid hospital beds. All the vulnerable will be taken care of by OGZ’s reverse isolation program. With all this preparation, we should be able to keep the death rate at the lowest level, despite the increasing number of positive cases,” the PM said.
Lyonchhen said they are also looking into all the Covid measures that are in place to make appropriate adjustments depending on the situation.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the government is taking a scientific approach. Omicron virus causes mostly an upper respiratory tract infection with less severe symptoms and hospitalization. This is largely due to vaccination and wide coverage of the vaccination.
“Soon everybody from five-years and above will be vaccinated. It is the right time to open as immunity levels are expected to remain high from here onwards. We are not opening because of pressure from people, we are opening because that is the right thing to do. We don’t see the need for further lockdown except in the case of hospitals being overwhelmed and high bed occupancy,” Lyonpo said.
The minister said that with phase II, it is expected that positive cases will increase in the coming days and weeks, however, the government expects the majority of them to be asymptomatic or mild and will recover without any active treatment.
“A few will require treatment and this is what needs to be monitored,” said Lyonpo.
Lyonpo added that complications of Covid are treatable and the focus will be to prevent severe illness and death by providing early treatment.
“By now everyone should have realized that sooner or later everyone will be infected as Corona is here to stay. The only way to prevent serious complications is to get vaccinated and practice safety norms such as masks, hand washing, social distancing and reduce mass gathering,” the minister said.
The chairperson of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG), Dr. Sithar Dorjee said the government will monitor the cases requiring hospital treatment closely and not impose movement restriction unless the Covid hospital bed occupancy exceeds 70%.
“If the bed occupancy exceeds 70%, a time-bound movement restriction will be imposed. As of now, only 0.18% of cases detected require hospital treatment and therefore there is no need for protracted lockdown,” he said. He said that considering scientific evidence on the Omicron and extremely high vaccination coverage gives adequate confidence to transit to Phase 2: Protection strategy.
Chencho Dema from Paro