234 local cases since second lockdown

A total of 689 cases have been recorded of which 449 have recovered so far

Nineteen new COVID-19 cases were detected on Friday of which 18 are close contacts detected in Thimphu and one is a returnee who is in quarantine, taking the total number of local cases detected to 234 since the second lockdown, according to Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo.

However, from the total 689 cases, 449 have recovered so far.

Lyonpo added that there is screening going on in 12 Dzongkhags but cases detected are zero as of now. A total of 7,000 people have been screened so far and they have all come negative.

She said that in the rest of the Dzongkhags excluding Thimphu and Paro, six cases are close contacts. “We are doing random testing in these six Dzongkhags and we will get the result as soon as possible,” she said.

According to Dasho Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, as Thimphu (Thim Throm) and Paro (Shabha) are the hotspots for the virus, people from buildings where cases have been detected are not allowed to come out. “There are 58 such buildings in Thimphu and residents of 29 buildings have been been tested. We will test people in the remaining buildings once seven days have lapsed,” she said.

“Cluster testing is also happening in places with more cases,” she said, adding the government has imposed smart lockdown in areas in Thimphu that have reported several incidences of COVID-19.

The health ministry is testing all vulnerable individuals. About 300-400 people have been tested from the 12 Dzongkhags where there is no report of any cases related to the recent outbreak.

Lyonpo said testing in other districts where cases have been reported is still ongoing. Apart from mass randomized testing, the health officials are also testing everyone from the red buildings, where a positive case was detected.

Dasho Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that the smart lockdown is proving very useful to control the number of new cases in the country.

She shared that strict lockdown in the country had to be lifted keeping in view the economic situation but imposing smart lockdown is proving helpful.

“There might be positive cases in other Dzongkhangs which are undetected. MoH is doing random testing in others Dzongkhags too,” she said, adding the health ministry urges people who are under home quarantine to strictly adhere to the quarantine protocols. However, if they are in need of medical services, they are asked to contact 112 for an ambulance, 2121 for any health issues and 6060 for elderly care.

Lyonpo shared the smart lockdown model along with the next set of restrictions. “MoH will continue to ramp up testing to be able to identify positive cases to have the basis to intervene. Quarantine facilities will be enhanced to ensure that those who are positive can be isolated.”

Lyonpo shared that His Majesty The King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo are very worried about COVID-19 spread in the country and its impact and are touring the south. “We have to take up our own responsibilities and strictly follow the COVID norms in the red zones across Thimphu.”

However, the ministry is still not sure when the vaccine will come but when it comes it will have a protocol ready in place. But the health ministry has made it mandatory for people to use facemasks while going out.

“Paro and Thimphu are the vulnerable places for the disease transmission because many COVID-19 positive cases are being detected in Paro and Thimphu.”

To prevent community transmission, people are encouraged to wear masks when they come out from home.

Lyonpo Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that the ministry encourages people to use facemask. “It will benefit them.”

“From our side it is a recommendation to use facemask while one is out. And most of the people are seen using facemask which is a good habit to contain the community transmission,” said Lyonpo.

The ministry has done approximately 30,000 RT-PCR tests and 29,000 antigen-tests since the second lockdown from December 20, 2020.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu