Gelephu Town

Gelephu case first contacts all test negative

Bhutan went into a lockdown on the morning of 11th August as a 27-year-old woman who had returned from Kuwait and spent a month in quarantine in Paro testing negative 5 times on the RT-PCR finally tested positive when she reached Sershong Gewog after spending time in Thimphu and Gelephu town.

However, matters settled down by 12th August as all 137 first contacts of the Gelephu lady tested negative including all her immediate first contacts.

The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the Gelephu lady and her family are fine. There was no positive case in her primary contacts.

“We are now ruling out if she got the virus from the community with tests but it is unlikely. We are testing people in her gewog and in Gelephu. If there are no cases then it must be an imported case,” said the PM.

The only mystery is that she had IgG antibodies which normally should indicate a virus history and recovery from it. She was IgG positive when she was released from the one-month quarantine in Paro.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that there is no big difference on whether there was IgG antibodies or not or whether it was checked for or not.

“She was checked for IgG and was positive before release but for some people the IgG stays for a lifetime. IgG is not a sign that you have the virus but a sign that you had it earlier. It is not indicative of an active disease but is indicative of a past infection.  It stays on in some people but it does not in some people. In some cases it gives you acquired immunity,” said the PM.

The PM said that in her case her having IgG means that she would not be severely affected by COVID-19 and it shows her immune system has protection.

On being asked if there could have been other cases like the lady for those released from quarantine in the past Lyonchhen said, “We found out that the lady had COVID-19 due to a very strong MoH health protocol. Our guidelines are of a very high standard and very very strict. So all those who leave the quarantine are tested like this. Till now no one tested positive like this.”

“We are applying the same protocols for all those being released from quarantine. We ask them not to roam around for two weeks and that if they have a cold then they should inform us and for those who had antibodies they should do a test after 15 days,” said the PM.

He said this stringent protocol is in addition to keeping them in quarantine for three weeks though other countries have two weeks. “She was caught because of the surveillance system,” said the PM.

Lyonchhen said there are cases in other countries where people test positive for COVID-19 even two or three months later. “In such cases we would have to keep people in quarantine for a lifetime which is not possible,” said the PM.

Lyonchhen said they also could trace the taxi and passengers who came from Paro to Thimphu with the Gelephu lady and all tested negative. He thanked RBP for finding the taxi.

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