The Ministry of Health has asked the primary contacts of COVID-19 positive cases to self-isolate and home quarantine for 21 days mandatorily. They are not allowed to come out even with their movement cards.
Apart from Thimphu Dzongkhag, all the primary contacts in other Dzongkhags are accommodated in the designated facilities.
Clinical microbiologist at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital and member of the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, Dr Tshokey said only primary contacts who can keep distance and segregate himself or herself at home and implement social distancing measures are home quarantined.
“With the current outbreak, we have more than 200 cases in Thimphu and Paro clusters over the week, and with high number of positive cases, COVID-19 center at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital is not able to accommodate everyone,” said Dr Tshokey.
Additionally, he said that hotels need to be saved for the asymptomatic and positive cases showing mild symptoms.
“We must take public health measures; when we protect ourselves we are protecting the whole community and everyone has the responsibility,” said the Chairperson of health ministry’s Technical Advisory Group and Epidemiologist, Dr Sithar Dorjee.
He also said the mode of transmission of the virus is exponential and the contacts have been identified to be put in quarantine.
“We are breaking the chain and saving hundreds or thousands from the transmission of the infection,” said Dr Sithar Dorjee.
In other countries, Dr Tshokey said COVID-19 positive cases that are not severe are not admitted in the hospital or hotels but they are asked to stay home unless they have breathing problems and other related complications.
He said Bhutan has adopted the strategy of isolating cases and contacts in the isolation centers in Phuentsholing, Mongar, Gelephu and Thimphu to prevent mortality and community transmission.
However, Dr Tshokey said medically it is not necessary to admit every positive case in hospitals therefore the strategy to isolate positive cases in hotels was adopted.
“A patient is isolated upon risk assessment with thorough screening like blood tests, chest x-ray and if required CT-scan,” he added.
Moreover, Dr Tshokey said the hotels are managed by nursing staff trained on COVID-19 management and De-suups who are also trained on the same therefore the latter can assist the health workers.
“We have tried to accommodate all family members together in a room to protect family bonding and provide emotional support as unfortunately there are cases where all the family members have been affected,” said Dr Tshokey.
Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu