TAG also clears doubts over the testing kits
During the live broadcast session, Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that the total number of people infected with the coronavirus has exceeded 5,000 out of which 2,000 people had tested positive within short duration of the current lockdown.
Compared to previous lockdown, the health minister clarified that on average, 8 people tested positive each day then and today 188 people test positive per day on average.
The greatest concern, according to the minister, are about 269 children below 12 years of age who tested positive and they are among the 200,000 unvaccinated people in the country.
Similarly, around 60 above the age of 65 people who tested positive are also vulnerable and are being taken care of by the ministry.
Among those testing positive, four are in critical condition requiring intensive care.
Lyonpo also said that despite causing inconvenience due to travel restrictions, people should know and handle their own responsibilities in order to eliminate the virus. “Since Omicron is a mutated version of coronavirus and has high transmissibility rate, people should practice extra caution to prevent further transmission and come forward for testing if they suspect they may have been infected or if they have travelled. If our people are lenient with the idea that the ministry will take care of everything, it will be very difficult to outplay the virus,” Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said.
The health minister also said that, while we are fully diverting our attention to the omicron virus, the regular health services in high risk zones are affected.
People have been expressing their doubts on social media regarding the efficiency and credibility of the testing kits.
To which the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) member Dr Sonam Wangchuk clarified that the test kits are working fine and the purpose of testing is to detect the infected individuals. There are seven hospitals with RT-PCR testing facilities across the country while rapid antigen test kits are available in all hospitals. The RT-PCR testing facility has also been recently started in Wangdue due to the large number of cases in Punakha and Wangduephodrang.
Whether the variant is delta or omicron, it can be identified by using the gene sequencing technology present in Bhutan.
Dr Sonam said that the old test kits are still effective in detecting positive cases since they are procured from the Republic of South Korea and after repeated enquiries, the Korean Government has vouched that the test kit is still highly effective in detecting both variants of the virus; delta and omicron. And to the doctor’s observation, the test kit seems to have been functioning without any faults for both the variants.
Another doubt people had was over antigen test which was found to have been less effective than the RT-PCR test. From the doctor’s statement RT-PCR test is indeed more effective and takes shorter time to detect the virus. “In spite of the efficiency of the test kits, people still cannot afford to be lenient just because they have tested negative once. If they feel unease or have flu like symptoms it is important to get tested repeatedly,” said the doctor.
According to the doctor, the government uses four guidelines to test the public for the coronavirus, namely; enhanced surveillance system which is weekly testing of frontline workers, health workers and desuups.
RT-PCR tests are carried out for those who are near the hospital equipped with the facility while antigen is done for those who are far away. In case a person tests positive, contact tracing is done in which all primary contacts that came in contact with the infected person and are traced and tested and within that duration the lockdown is imposed and the travels restricted. This is only done to the person involved with the infected person including his friends and family and the tests are done on RT-PCR and contact tracing is mostly done in red and yellow zones.
When a person from a household tests positive, cluster testing is done which is when the source and time of the infection cannot be ascertained. The tests are done on the assumption that the source is from within that community only and not anywhere else. And in order to ascertain that there are no cases in the community, mass testing is done. In small towns and villages every individuals are tested but in dense towns like Thimphu, one person from every household is tested.