The government has spent more than Nu 45mn on testing kits for the novel coronavirus so far.
There are three testing methods currently in use – Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) that uses a machine, Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) using test kits and antigen test kit.
The RT-PCR test costs about Nu 3,000 while the unit cost for a RDT is about Nu 1,000. Antigen test kit also costs Nu 1,000. As of yesterday a total of 9,240 RT-PCR tests and 17,390 rapid tests were conducted in the country.
According to Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, in addition to RT-PCR and Rapid Test Kit there will now be a new antigen test which will show the results in 30 minutes. “It is accurate like RT-PCR and available in the southern dzongkhags for now; it will expand to other places in the country,” she said.
Rapid antigen testing started last week along the border areas and is suited for high risk population and emergency cases. “It may be rolled out in the dzongkhags later based on need and situation,” she said, adding the Ministry of Health has enough Antigen testing kits distributed to all district hospitals.
“Each antigen test kit costs US$ 10-30,” she said, adding that with this the country will now have three different tests for COVID-19. “Rapid tests and antigen tests will be available now,” she said.
Lyonpo said the symptomatic cases will be kept in the isolation facilities in the hospitals in Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Mongar and Gelephu. These hospitals are equipped with ventilators,” she said.
Lyonpo added in the case of community transmission, isolation facilities for asymptomatic patients will be identified separately away from the hospital. These patients will be attended by trained volunteers.
Officials from the health ministry said based on the tests conducted, interventions including contact tracing, quarantine and isolation can be executed.
“All those completing the 21-day mandatory quarantine period are tested on the 22nd day. Symptomatic people at the point of entries and flu clinics are also tested using the rapid test kits,” she said, adding antigen test is used for emergency purpose only.
A health official mentioned that they have enough antigen test kits as of now but in case of community transmission they will procure more. “For now, we are comfortable because we have enough RT-PCR and Rapid Test Kits.”
Health workers, DeSuup and soldiers among others, working in the frontlines are also tested using the RDT method.
Health officials said that symptomatic individuals meeting the COVID-19 case definition were tested on the 22nd day before releasing them from the isolation ward and symptomatic health workers are also RT-PCR tested.
As part of the containment efforts, the health ministry continues to screen anyone entering the country both via land and air. “Border areas are strictly monitored using COVID norms.”
Ministry officials said a proportionately large number of people screened at the border gates could be anyone entering through the border checkpoints.
Meanwhile, health officials and trained law enforcement personnel and DeSuups conduct the screening that involves checking for fever, general signs and symptoms and recording travel history.
In addition, 48,402 people have also been screened at 54 flu clinics across the country. Save for the flu clinics at the national referral hospital, Mongar, Wangdue and Trashigang, which remain open 24/7, the rest of the clinics operate between 9am and 3pm.
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu