SC19TF begins sensitizing public on Omicron variant and threats

The sensitization program was organized as a preparatory measure

Given the porous border and increasing threat of the spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, the Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC19TF) has started sensitizing the residents of Phuentsholing on safety protocols this week. 

Meanwhile, the new Omicron variant has already been reported in other neighboring countries. As of December 6, India has already detected a total of 23 Omicron variant cases. Even Nepal and Thailand have detected their first Omicron variant case.

Earlier this week, the regional heads and managers of various offices in Phuentsholing attended the session and they were also briefed on the safety protocols, symptoms, modes of transmission, incubation period and the new variant of the Covid19, among others,     

Meanwhile, the transmission of the Omicron in India will be putting pressure on Phuentsholing as it shares a porous border with the Indian town of Jaigaon.

During the sensitization program, the SC19TF has made it compulsory for a member from each household to attend the awareness program. The SC19TF has identified over 30 different sites for the sensitization program.

The SC19TF, Incident Management Team (IMT) and the Phuentsholing General Hospital conducted the sensitization program.

A task force member, Rixin Jamtsho said not only Phuentsholing, all the southern parts of the country are at higher risks and the new Omicron variant can reach Bhutan at any time.

The risky areas include the Mini Dry Port (MDP), truck parking and the road towards the gate. Even the quarantine facilities are also considered as risky areas.

“It is easy to become complacent,” Rixin Jamtsho said, adding that illegal activities are due to the porous border.

He also said the new variant has multiple mutations up to 32 compared to only eight mutations in the Delta variant and that the new variant might be 500% more infectious than Delta, though more information and further studies are still required.

Rixin Jamtsho said the Omicron has shown to have an increased risk of reinfection, has a high potential to evade vaccine antibodies and high likelihood of rapid spread. Omicron is also likely to cause severe infections and reinfections.

While many have raised concerns over the seven days quarantine while traveling from higher risk to lower risk areas, the SC19TF reiterated the importance of continuing with the seven days quarantine.

According to the SC19TF, the incubation period of SARS-COV-2 to cause Covid-19 is 2-14 days and about 15-20% of the patients show symptoms only after seven days. The neighboring states of India still report many cases of Covid-19 every day. Few incidences are from protocol breach to which home quarantine is not feasible. Moreover, as per the data up to the second lockdown in Bhutan, 54% of patients showed symptoms within three days, 85% showed symptoms within seven days and 95% showed symptoms within 14 days.

“While 99% showed symptoms within 21 days; which indicates that the quarantine is necessary,” the task force member said.

Rixin Jamtsho said the sensitization program was organized as a preparatory measure.

Meanwhile, it has been for four months now that not a single positive case of Covid-19 has been detected from the community. But the risk of the virus is still at large due to its porous border.

Sonam Tashi from Phuentsholing