Everyone in Phuentsholing tested as of now: Health Minister

With 32 local transmission cases in Phuentsholing after the national lockdown announced on 11th of August, the government is still trying to rule out the risk of transmission. So the government has immediately taken some interventions and starting from 25th August, no people will be moving out of Phuentsholing until the secondary level of contact tracing are done.

The ministry has contact traced their contacts of the people in the community who have come positive. The Health Minister said they would have got tested but again they would not have been picked up by a test, so once all the contacts are identified, the ministry will do a risk assessment of the contact and then they will test again. She said three days will give fairly a good amount of time to reassess the risk.

While for the community surveillance, Health Minister said ministry will not do a random test in the community as there is a certain protocol that includes a sampling frame or a cluster. It is defined geographically as various clusters and then they demarcate them. After taking data from every household from that cluster, they start testing everyone. So, of the five clusters in Phuentsholing, a higher number of cases are from these two clusters which is the core area and the high school area next to the core area. Another one is closer to the RRCO and MDP cluster.

In the first two days, the two members from each household got tested to see the extent and the spread of the epidemic. When there were five cases who came positive, the ministry scaled it up and started testing the whole of Phuentsholing.  “So as of now we are fairly confident that we would have tested everybody in Phuentsholing,” said Health Minister. There are people who have not received the test or if anybody had missed it, the public are requested to avail these services which are still available in Phuentsholing.

As of now everyone got tested in Phuentsholing except for children below the ages of 14 years. The Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said the reason for not testing children below 14 years is because it is unfair for children to go through all this traumatic experience. She said if their parents are positive then the probability of children being positive is very high.

The MoH has decided to test the entire Chukha Dzongkhag given the risks.

The Health Minister while reflecting on some of the challenges, said while carrying out household testing, initially the logistic challenges was there, having to call everybody and then mobilize people.

And by the 2nd day it was much more organized, with the help of Desuups, the local government, the task force and all the stakeholders in Phuentsholing under the leadership of the home secretary there as the incident commander of the Southern task force. She said it has been helpful in terms of organizing this whole testing to be done in a very short period of time.

The samples were taken and tested batch wise since a PCR machine for example takes only 90 channels and one test takes approximately 6 hours. Pool sampling is done and then they try to test. So the maximum, in 24 hours, without sleeping, is around 3000 samples tested, said Health Minister.

Meanwhile, the country has enough test kits to test the whole of the population said the minister.  

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