Testing in Thimphu and Paro

40 active cases of COVID-19 and what is being done to ensure this number does not balloon

The Covid-19 cases in the country as of Monday has reached 155 and with a total of 40 active cases. There are 33 active cases in Phuentsholing isolation ward and out of which two are children, a five-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, 2 are in Gelephu isolation ward and 8 in Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH).

The country has National COVID-19 centers in Mongar, Gelephu, Phuentsholing and JDWNRH. So far there is no Covid-19 cases in Mongar. All the patients are doing well without requiring medical attention except for a few who needed oxygen support.

Clinical Microbiologist, Dr Tshokey said after finding the primary case of the Phuentsholing, the government has initiated a lot of active surveillance activities. And the government has found out that at least about 1,000 people who are primary contact of the Phuentsholing case have left for 12 dzongkhags.

Out of 949 primary contacts, almost 62 percent that comes around 600 people of the primary contacts have been tested in the 12 dzongkhags.

Dr Tshokey said the government has started the active surveillance on August 15 in Phuentsholing (see main story on pg 1).

There are five cases from Paro from the primary contacts of Phuentsholing case who have left Phuentsholing before the announcement of lockdown. The government has also started screening people in Lango, Woochu and Bonday town in Paro because the cases were around those areas.

The MoH said active community testing has begun in Paro from 20th August to assess the potential risk of local transmission in Paro. Only one person from each household will be tested.

Sample of elderlies or the most active person who goes out the house the most will be tested. RT-PCR will be done for symptomatic cases and rapid antigen for others.

After the risk assessment, over 800 households are included for testing.

For Thimphu, the government is actively contacting and tracing people who left Phuentsholing from August 1 and similarly doing it in every dzongkhag. The highest number is in Thimphu, so the government has started testing people in Thimphu and visiting houses since August 17. Health officials have been calling them individually and visiting their area and testing them.

“In the last three to four days, we tried our best but this has not been successful. So we will be changing our strategy of testing the people,” said Dr Tshoky.

Testing for people with travel history to Phuentsholing on or after August 1 was initiated on August 21, 2020. The government request the people to visit the Covid-19 Testing Station in their super zones using the movement pass.

People are not allowed to freely move just because they have movement pass because a lot of testing is still to be done and it is risky although Thimphu has got one positive case in quarantine as a first contact of the MDP case in Phuentsholing. 

Dr Tshoky said if there was no lockdown, the infected people will go into community and the positive cases would have much higher than the current figures.

He said people should not think that the Covid-19 virus is not serious and anybody can recover.

“If people do not follow the health advisories, the number of cases are going to increase and the number of people with comorbidities with cancer, hypertension, heart diseases and old age will be at high risk. As the number increases, the proportion of seriousness and critical cases will increase and is bound to lead to deaths of individuals with Covid-19. So to continue the trend of no death cases, we should try to control the infection and break the chain of community transmission and strictly following the lockdown guideline,” he said.

Active surveillance is going on in Phuentsholing where 20 teams are deployed and they are visiting every part of Phuentsholing starting from the mini dry port (MDP) and towards the periphery assuming that the risks are limited. It has also started in Pasakha.

He said it is not required to test the entire 28,000 people in Phuentsholing. Dr Tshokey said one or two family members from one household are tested and not entire family member because the risk remains same.

He said scientifically testing nationwide is not required and some limited logistic issues like limited health staffs and trained people and also no proper address has been the main difficulties during surveillance.

He said despite so many challenges, the government will do everything wherever it is required and especially ensure the primary contacts are not left out.

Currently, based on risk assessment and population density, the government have started testing only in Phuentsholing, Thimphu and Paro.

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