MoH says it is prepared to deal with Corona
From 1st January to 7th February 2020 a total of 2,890 tourists visited Bhutan of which there were 629 Chinese tourists.
However, there has also been some cancellations. Of the 358 cancellations till 7th February 197 gave corona virus as the reason of cancellation. Of this 52 were Chinese while the rest were Russian, Swiss, German, American, Australian, Chilean, Singaporean, Vietnamese, British, Japanese, Spanish Korean, Filipino, Indonesian, Canadian, Malaysian, New Zealander, Bolivian, Finnish, Austrian, Saudi, Mexican and Japanese.
However, new bookings after 15th January were more than the cancellations with 600 new bookings.
The TCB DG Dorji Dhradhul said, “So we are monitoring on daily basis since January 15th as cancellations have been taking place and at the same time new bookings has also been taking place. On a daily basis the new booking is always more than the cancellation. The other fact is that not all cancellations are Chinese.”
The TCB DG stressed that there is no travel ban of any sort on Chinese tourists or people coming from China. “There is no rejection from our side so far while other countries are doing a ban,” said the DG.
The DG said that basically Bhutan’s surveillance system is in place. Bhutan’s upcoming peak tourist season is from March to May.
As of Monday night or 11th February, China has reported a total of 42,638 confirmed corona cases and 1,016 people were dead.
There are around 462 reported cases outside China in 25 countries and two terrorities with two deaths.
A total of 4,043 have recovered since the start of the outbreak.
7,345 or 19 percent are in a critical condition.
In regard to the banning of the international tourists, the Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said the government has not really explored the option of cancelling international flights to and from affected areas as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) had not recommended an international travel ban.
Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said Bhutan has not reached to that situation where it has to ban tourists or stop air travel. “We have to be guided by global scientific evidence and also there is no recommendation to ban travelers or to remove flights by WHO,” Lyonpo said, adding, “There are no direct flights from China. The only thing Bhutan needs to have is, a good surveillance system and Bhutan is a small country, and it is manageable.”
MoH prepared for Corona
The Ministry of Health (MoH) said it is preparing for the worst situation if the 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak happens in Bhutan. Resources and infrastructure and response plan are being strengthened, and continuous monitoring of the preparedness and response status are being carried out at all the entry points.
MoH is to conduct press briefings on Coronavirus on a weekly basis to inform the nation on what has been the development, both in terms of the country’s preparedness and also studies and scientific development that are taking place globally.
Therefore, the ministry had requested the public not to worry and panic.
The Health Minister, said the ministry has activated the national disaster committee and has also simultaneously activated the national health disaster committee within the health ministry. A core team and the ministers have been meeting every day and working on the coronavirus threat, and are keeping the nation updated.
She also addressed on some of the various miscommunication with the public that the virus is contacted through various means and everybody are panicking and buying masks.
The Health Minister clarified that as per the scientific literature, the coronavirus is mostly transmitted through droplets and is much like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and flu. The signs and symptoms of coronavirus are similar to flu, she said.
The ministry has often received questions on whether the doctors in the country are prepared to handle coronavirus or not, said the Health Minister. She said the treatment of coronavirus is similar to flu and Pneumonia and said there is no separate treatment for coronavirus and it is supportive care, where all the doctors are trained in providing supportive care.
Another misconception is whether Bhutan has test kit for coronavirus. Lyonpo said there is no rapid test kit globally except for China and many countries are in the process of developing it.
“If the rapid test kit is developed then Bhutan will procure it through World Health Organization (WHO), as they will make it available to their member state,” said Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo.
She also clarified that there is no particular medicines to treat coronavirus. Not only in Bhutan, but globally. Only vaccination will help to treat coronavirus and which will take a year to be developed, she added.
Outbreaks reported in nearby States of Bihar, Assam, Siliguri are not true and are false information being circulated in social media, alerted the Health Minister.
Some of the challenges are a porous border. With India having reported the confirmed cases, there is risk of missing the screening due to porous borders. 2019-nCoV is a Novel Coronavirus currently without antivirals (medicines) and vaccine.
Asymptomatic cases are reported to be the source of infection and it has an incubation period of 2-10 days. There have already been reported cases in the region (Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand and Nepal where many Bhutanese travel for business and pilgrimage purposes).
The ministry requested the people who have visited places with reported cases of coronavirus to report to the ministry for further assessment.
Meanwhile, posters on precautionary measures for the public have been already distributed and displayed on all the election boards.
The ministry, along with the education ministry, issued notification that all the students who are sick to refrain from going to school. Also, the minister said that to close down schools is not the right approach as there has been no case of coronavirus till date.
Screenings started at all the points of entry in the south (Samtse, Sipsu, Gomtu, Phuntsholing, Gelephu, Samdrup Jongkhar, Lhamoizingkha and Nganglam).
The old building, Mother and Child Health Unit, at JDWNRH has been identified as the isolation facility in Thimphu. The facility has 20 beds for isolation and 5 critical care units. 2 isolation rooms have been identified at the Paro Hospital, in Phuentsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar, 8 isolation rooms have been identified. In Gelephu Regional Referral Hospital, 10 isolation rooms and 4 critical care units have been identified and 4 isolation rooms in Samtse hospital.
Furthermore, the ministry has placed orders for equipment, infection control consumables and personal protective equipment worth Nu 18.68 million out of which 50 percent of the consignment has already reached Medical Supply Distribution Division (MSDD) and remaining will be arriving within this week.