According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), Thimphu is relatively safe, as the COVID-19 positivity rate in Thimphu is around 1.5 percent, which is much lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended positivity rate threshold of 5 percent for imposing COVID-19 related restrictions.
An official from MoH said that the ministry is still imposing movement restrictions even with a lower positivity rate due to the elimination strategy being followed. Considering this optimistic figure or rate, Thimphu is moderately protected.
However, going forward in the pandemic, Thimphu’s safety situation is entirely dependent on how well the public complies with COVID-19 preventive measures and the lockdown protocols.
The official said the general public can help the government to make Thimphu a safer place by stringently conforming to the COVID-19 preventive measures, such as diligently wearing the face mask, maintaining a physical distance of 2 meters and washing hands frequently with soap and water, avoiding gatherings of all sorts, and strictly obeying the lockdown protocols.
As declared by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on 23 February, movement of people was restricted to respective zones with the emergence of more COVID-19 community cases, and considering the need to assess and contain the disease spread, the National COVID-19 Taskforce announced the following measures for the four mega-zones and peripheral areas in Thimphu and Paro Thromdes.
Currently, the health ministry is operating flu clinics, as usual, in order to pick up any further cases from the community. In addition, contact tracing and testing works for the positive cases are being done. Primary contacts are asked to home quarantine, themselves, especially in the buildings that are marked as red buildings, and positive cases are moved to isolation facilities. As a way forward, as and when the desired epidemiological stages of the outbreak is reached, the ministry will be conducting the mass testing programs to rule out any residual cases in the community.
Thimphu is still detecting a few number of positive cases from the community despite imposing restrictions to respective zones, the health official said this is most likely because the residents are not diligently complying with the lockdown and movement restriction protocols that are in place.
Despite the repeated requests, people are also applying for their e-passes for inter-district travel for non-emergency purposes, and this could also be contributing to sporadic outbreaks in the community.
It could also be because of the higher transmissibility rate of the Omicron variant aggravated by the poor compliance to COVID-19 preventive measures.
“We have repeatedly seen a lot of people moving around in groups and visiting crowded places without the proper use of face masks as soon as we lift movement restrictions. Despite numerous awareness and advocacy programs, it is also disheartening to see that the shopkeepers and sporting facilities are not even setting up hand washing facilities or installing hand sanitizers at the entrance of their shops, people are just walking in and out of them without the slightest of concerns,” said the official.
Thimphu saw 37 cases reported on 25 February with 1 community case and 36 contact cases. On 24 February Thimphu saw 35 cases with 11 from the community and rest 24 being contacts.