Health minister says the lockdown should be lifted in phase-wise manner, assessing the risk of the virus
The government is preparing health infrastructure to fight against Covid-19 in case there is a second wave of the outbreak of the disease in the country, according to Health Minister Dechen Wangmo.
Speaking to the media during a press briefing in Thimphu yesterday, the Lyonpo said that they are striving so that there is no second wave of the Covid-19.
“Globally it is seen that after a wave, a second wave (of Covid-19) occurs. But if it comes, we are confident that we have enough PPE kits, N95 masks, and ventilators,” the Lyonpo said.
“It is likely that the cases will be concentrated around urban areas, where Covid-19 management and taskforce will be ready to combat the problems,” said the Lyonpo, adding that area-specific lockdowns and relaxations will have to be the norm, depending on the rise and fall in cases.
“However, the government hopes that the second wave will not rise in fresh cases, if the people follow the Covid norms strictly,” she added.
Meanwhile, the medical infrastructure that needs to be bettered and at disposal include hospital beds, PPEs, ventilators, RT-PCR and RDT testing kits.
According to the minister, there have also been demands from people for various things, such as supply of vegetables among others and for religious places to open up. But so far the MoH has not taken a call.
“When we say we want to resume our lives normally, then crowding is inevitable. We are opening things gradually, but while doing so we are also ensuring that a second wave does not start,” the Lyonpo said.
The minister added that the government is anticipating a rise in Covid-19 cases with the movement of people in border areas like Phuentsholing and Gelephu. “The relaxing of the lockdown will depend on the risks.”
However, Lyonpo said the situation in the country today is in control. “We are continuing with the tracing, tracking and testing.”
Meanwhile, in a panel discussion on Wednesday, Health Minister DechenWangmo said the extension of the lockdown would depend on the number of positive cases from the primary contacts of the new COVID-19 cases.
As of yesterday, there are a total of 68 active cases in isolation in the country of which 58 are in Phuentsholing, seven in Thimphu and three in Haa.
The health ministry would take about three days to contact trace the primary contacts, monitor and test each case.
“If the results are negative, then there is less risk. It depends on the number of positive tests from the community,” said Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo.
As per experts, given the incubation period of the disease, symptoms show in early as 14 days and as per international guidelines, lockdown could be lifted after 21 days but the national goal is different, the said Lyonpo.
“As His Majesty The King has commanded regularly, the first priority is to prevent and contain the virus and if there is community transmission then to have zero deaths,” said Lyonpo.
Today is the 19th day of since the government announced a nationwide lockdown on August 11 following report of a positive case in Gelephu, who came in close contact with people in Thimphu, Gelephu, Paro and those along the way.
“Lockdown is the most effective and efficient means of breaking the chain of transmission, however, it does not guarantee that there would not be any transmission,” said Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo.
Additionally, Lyonpo said the person might have been infected prior to the lockdown and would have become symptomatic and tested positive during surveillance.
There are reports from other countries that cases have subsided during the lockdown and peaked when the lockdown was lifted, said Lyonpo, adding that it should be lifted in phase-wise manner, assessing the risk of the virus.
“It is usually expected that cases spike after a lockdown is lifted. If the people change their individual behavior, the spike will be smaller for sure,” she added.
Additionally, Lyonpo said the cases would spike if the people go back to crowding, refuse use of hand sanitizers, facemasks, and do not wash hands plus if they are not careful of where one is going.
“People should take the issue seriously in absence of a vaccine right now. Basic health precautions like hand washing, using masks and avoiding crowds should be adapted as new behaviors,” said Lyonpo.
The lockdown enabled to contact trace the contacts of the infected individuals otherwise, it would be difficult because a person travels to various locations, she added.
Lyonpo urged the people to visit flu clinics if they have any symptoms of fever, chills, loss of smell and diarrhea. The health ministry also requests people not to move out of their zones and not to mingle with neighbors while visiting shops during the time specified in movement pass.
“The ultimate goal of the lockdown is to keep the people from coming in contact with each other and break the chain of transmission of the virus in the community,” she said.
With additional reporting by Thukten Zangpo
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu