From 247 active cases to 513 active cases in 3 days: COVID’s spread into both high risk and low risk areas

Day 1 (Sunday)

It all started at around 2 am on Sunday morning on 16th January as a notification from the PMO on facebook announced a blackout in 14 Dzongkhags.

It said there is a “24 hours’ blackout” in Thimphu, Wangduephodrang, Punakha, Paro, Gasa, Haa, Chukha, Trongsa, Bumthang, Dagana, Sarpang, Tsirang, Samtse and Zhemgang with immediate effect.

In addition to the detection of more positive COVID-19 cases in the quarantine facilities lately, it said the decision is arrived at after a suspected COVID-19 positive individual at Punatsangchu project has possibly interacted, work related, with residents beyond.

On the same day Phuentsholing announced three more cases from the community with 2 females from near the MiG cinema and 1 male from the MLCP flu clinic.

The positive case in PHPA was a water tanker driver who supplied drinking water to the workers in the P-I project. He used to fetch the drinking water from a spring and water filter plant in the project’s main access tunnel and take it to the workers’ colonies.

The worker was found positive after he went to a BHU clinic with symptoms.

The worker stayed at a Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) workers’ colony of around 200 workers at ‘Langley Tsawa’, Rurichu.

He used to frequent the local shops and bars at the area located near a BoD. The worker, however, does not have a permit to travel outside Wangdue, and he claims he did not travel to Wangdue town in the last few days.

He was not detected in the rapid antigen testing for hydropower workers were 10% are tested every month.

P-I has a total of around 400 workers and the MoH team was testing all contacts.

Officials were puzzled how he got the virus as the recent large import of workers, who are all in quarantine in a different location, were for the separate P-II project.

The worker was fully vaccinated with two doses.

The reason why the 14 Dzongkhags have been shutdown is because the bars and shops the worker frequented is right next to the highway.

To add to that, his work of ferrying water would have put him in touch with a large number of people.

MoH had also started giving booster doses to the workers in the P-I and P-II projects and around 1,800 workers got the third dose until Saturday.

Day 2 (Monday)

On Monday morning at around 3 am it was announced that that the 14 Dzongkhags would go into zoning system as only two positive cases were detected from Wangdue and there were not more cases from Gelephu and Phuentsholing.

It said in the last 24 hours, more than 7,800 samples were collected from the 14 districts that went under the “blackout” period yesterday. As of 1.30am, 5,836 samples were tested, of which, except for the two from the Punatsangchu colony, all tested negative for COVID-19 so far.

It was said that only PHPA areas and Bjimithangka, Kamichhu, Taksha, Basochhu, Waglaytar and seven gewogs of Daga, Athang, Gasetsho Wom, Gasetsho Gom, Nahi, Rubesa and Thedtsho would go into a 72-hour blackout with testing while there would be heightened surveillance in Bajo, Khuruthang and Lobesa.

However, this soon changed by late morning as seven positive cases were found from the community in Phuentsholing which meant it could not enter the zoning system.

The news went bad when by Monday mid-day more than 50 workers at the HCC workers’ colony in Langley Tsawa, Rurichu at Punatsangchu-1 tested positive.

By evening more bad news hit as Wangdue had 110 cases, Gelephu had 5 community cases, in addition to the seven from Phuentsholing announced earlier.

On Monday evening the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering came on air to say they tested around 7,000 samples in the last 24 hours and a total of 141 tested positive. Most of them are from PHPA. There were no cases in Thimphu, Paro etc despite tests.

He said most of our cases are from either containment mode or quarantine.

Of the 110 who tested positive in PHPA only 6 are Bhutanese and the rest are expatriate workers working in containment mode.

He said we should be worried as the Omicron variant is much more transmissible.

He said there were 1,800 tests done in Thimphu but there are no cases yet, but they will still continue the lockdown for 2 more days as the virus could take time to incubate.

“We will do more tests in Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Haa etc to confirm there is no virus before unlocking. By day after tomorrow we will test another 7,000 people and if there are not many cases then we will start unlocking,” said the PM.

Lyonchhen said 800 tests were done in Bajo, Khuruthang, Lobesa as most of the PHPA workers go there but all were negative. Another test is to be done in another 3 days.

He said for Bajo, Khuruthang and Lobesa they will do detailed and separate tests and until this is resolved he hoped the people will cooperate with the government. He said people from Bajo, Khuruthang and Lobesa cannot travel out for now.

He said His Majesty has commanded the we must continue the policy of not having any COVID cases at all.

“I am the biggest recipient of Kidu as His Majesty’s leadership and Kidu has helped the government and people so much and avoid a lot of health, social and economic issues that other nations are facing,” added the PM.

“Despite our requests to avoid gatherings this lockdown shows that lot of people took part in gatherings and travel and are now requesting to travel back home,” said the PM

He asked people to follow COVID protocols, avoid gatherings, wear masks etc.

Lyonchhen said they have made all arrangements to provide medical care to the positive cases in Wangdue at the PHPA location and if they do not fit there then arrangements can be made in Bajo hospital or even Thimphu.

Day 3 (Tuesday)

On Tuesday morning new came that a 38-year-old man has tested positive at Gyelpozhing, Mongar on 17th January. He had traveled from Punatsangchu, Wangduephodrang.

A 24-hour blackout was announced in Sengor, Lingmithang, Gyelpozhing and Mongar town for case investigation given the inconsistency of information shared to the surveillance team.

Then a police person stationed at the Samdrupjongkhar main gate tested positive. The contacts have been quarantined.  Given the high risk job the police person was working in a containment mode according to a RBP official.

An elderly lady who is a neighbor of the positive case from Wangdue tested positive in Gedu on Tuesday.

She had visited the house of the man for the annual Loche.

She is one of the 120 people in Gedu who had direct contact with him.

On Tuesday Gelephu reported 11 community cases and 1 quarantine case. Two of the cases are children.

Of the 11 cases today 4 are uniformed personnel with another 4 being their dependents which includes two children. The remaining three are local residents.

Of the 4 community cases on Monday 3 were uniformed personnel and one lady is a dependent.

The first community case reported on Sunday was also a uniformed personnel.

This means a total of 8 uniformed personnel and five of their dependents of the total 16 community cases in Gelephu.

However, there were no cases detected in a sweep of the main camp of the uniformed personnel.

All of the above cases are outside the main camp.

Tuesday evening brought forth a report of 101 cases, but most of them were from the quarantine facilities. Around 31 cases were either community or contacts.

 Of concern was the fact that Punakha reported 2 community cases and Samtse reported 1 community case showing the spread of the virus in these Dzongkhags.

The nationality of the cases were 82 Bhutanese and 19 Non-Bhutanese.

This means a total of 513 active cases as of Tuesday evening up from 247 active cases on Saturday evening.

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