Government’s plan to transit to Phase II after a successful Phase 1

During the first phase of the country’s response to COVID-19, Bhutan did not have the vaccines, and the whole world had little knowledge of the coronavirus. There was very limited information available to the public on the virus, and very little scientific evidence on the virus.

However, Bhutan was able to adopt a prevention and containment strategy during the first phase, wherein the main intention was to stop the importation of the virus into the country, and to try and contain the widespread of virus, as far as possible.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo, during a LIVE interview session on Facebook, said that the implementation of those strategies meant stringent quarantine measures, testing and isolating protocols, whereby everyone is tested, and further steps of community screening was done to ensure the communities are free of the virus.

“We are happy that we did that because we managed to contain the Delta variant. This would not have been possible without the support from the people. Under the leadership and guidance of His Majesty, we were able to introduce and roll out both the vaccines,” Lyonpo added.

Suddenly, there was evidence of booster dose and its significant benefit, and we  introduced the booster dose as well, she said.  

The second wave the country got hit with was the delta variant, which is a virulent virus that has killed many across the world. Although it was less transmissible, yet the variant was virulent comparing to the Alpha variant, she added.

The current wave is Omicron variant that is highly transmissible but has low virulence, mainly due to the safeguard provided by the vaccines.

“We know more lot about this virus than we did two years ago, and we now have more evidence. This is now where we will have transition into phase II of our intervention.”

Lyonpo further said that the main objective of the intervention would be to prevent pre-mature mortality/ death of COVID-19. This is where the health ministry needs to clinically manage the patients very efficiently.

There is a health emergency operation center set up in Taba, which is being used. There is a clinical management team looking after all the positive cases across the country, and each district in the regions have tried to build hospitals and put in more health workers.

She said, “With the limited health workforce we have, we are trying to use it in a most efficient manner so that everyone gets a good quality care, so that we can prevent pre-mature mortality.”

The country is safer now than a year ago. The health ministry is confident with going forward, as the vaccines will help in the fight against COVID-19.

 “The populations are also highly educated now, on how to protect themselves from the disease. Now, we need to have a great participation from the public in helping us to prevent transmission and prevent one-self from getting the disease by following the norms,” Lyonpo added.

“We may not be able to eradicate or eliminate the virus, as once the virus is here it is going to stay,” Lyonpo Dasho Dechen Wangmo said.

She said the country has only around 3,000 health for 700,000 plus population, which is why the government does not have the luxury of a large health force, and COVID-19 is not only the battle being fought, as many other areas need attention as well.

“We are working closely with the National COVID-19 Task Force on the Phase II and the preparations are in full swing. Everyone must come together to fight as one nation,” Lyonpo said.

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