Possible second lockdown to be ‘smart’ with stay-at-home orders in identified area

Lockdowns are not planned and it happens when something alarming takes place such as sudden outbreak or in masses, according to the health ministry.

Currently, Bhutan has not seen local transmission of COVID-19 or new active cases in masses apart from those in quarantine centres though there is still a risk of an upsurge in cases.

In European countries, there has an increase in new cases of COVID-19, supposedly the second wave of coronavirus because of the new strains of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.

Studies have found the cases are surging because of the colder weather and people’s complacency. Thirty million new cases have been confirmed with a loss of up to 1mn lives due to COVID-19.

World Health Organization (WHO) claimed the second wave is starting to ease with 1.8mn new cases this week compared to 2mn the week before.

Additionally, people in some countries on the European continent were dying every 17 seconds from the virus this past week. These countries have issued multiple stay-at-home orders.

The health ministry has stated that lockdown is necessary to break the chain of transmission of the virus.

A clinical microbiologist at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital and Technical Advisory Group, COVID-19, Dr Tshokey said that if the virus infects someone on day 1 or 2 of lockdown and assuming 14 days as lockdown period, the study has shown that by day 14, he or she is 100% non-infectious.

It was also found out that the incubation time for the COVID-19 is 1 to 14 days, according to WHO.

“There are no plans for lockdowns anytime soon,” said an official from the health ministry.

However, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said if there is nationwide lockdown, it might happen for a few days because there is in need to consider the social and economic costs.

“There would not be intense nationwide lockdown but a smart lockdown as we have good surveillance system and can geographically locate the area that needs supervision,” she said.

The country imposed its first lockdown already and has segregated the Dzongkhags into respective zones. “If there is a lockdown, it would be easier to lockdown in small parts,” stated the health ministry.

“But we hope there will be no second lockdown ever and if  at all necessary, it will be much easier to execute as we now have essential health services identified and focal persons in place,” said the health official.

The health ministry stated the country has stocked up on medical supplies for such emergencies and are still recruiting more health workers and volunteers to respond to the pandemic.

And, as other sectors have hands-on experience if a second lockdown is initiated, it would be much smoother than the earlier one.

The health ministry said pacifying the public was a challenge during the first lockdown and so was was creating the zones.

Moreover, people’s compliance with COVID-19 protocols are still a problem and the ministry is focusing on behaviour change through communication.

“If the public follows the protocols, we don’t need to impose severe lockdowns that continue endlessly like in other countries; we hope we do not have to pass the path,” said Lyonpo.

Bhutan has a 482-bedded COVID-19 ward in the country and a 42-bedded intensive care unit.

Additionally, there are 55 flu clinics in the country.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu