Ministry of Health

Govt coming up with more enhanced COVID-19 safety protocols

With the many positive cases reported in the country, the government will now implement stricter COVID-19 safety protocols. Royal Bhutan Police will also be monitoring to see whether the people are wearing their facemasks and following all the safety protocols.

Chief Program Officer, Rixin Jamtsho said the latest scientific finding shows the new COVID-19 variant is airborne and highly transmissible via aerosols called droplet nuclei. The transmission via droplets can also occur while talking, breathing or evaporation of aerosols.

Therefore, important new norms have to be followed by every individual, like the compulsory use of facemask, physical distancing of more than 1 meter, compulsory use of Druk Trace App, avoiding the events that need gathering of more than 25 people longer than 15 minutes or activities that need big groups in open space, restricting entry of outsiders but in case of emergency visits making sure that the guests follow all the safety protocols.

 The high risk service providers, like banks, should have strict safety protocols, awareness should be provided during the meetings in all the offices, and there should be cleaning and disinfection of buildings, classrooms, toilets, desks, railings, tables, doorknobs and window handles.

N 95 face mask are to be used by health staff while handling suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients or when aerosol generating procedures are performed.

There should be good environmental ventilation in all closed settings and appropriate environmental cleaning and disinfection.

The three most important measure is to follow frequent hand washing, physical distancing and cough etiquette.

Rixin Jamtsho, said it is getting risker by the day for Bhutan to be free of COVID-19. He said the virus detected in the beginning is completely different from the new variants of SARS-COV-2 which has a high transmissibility and infectivity.

Earlier the symptoms were not severe, but now the virus can have severe symptoms and can lead to death of a person.

He said many people are now complacent in Thimphu and other districts and are not wearing their facemask. He said the current COVID-19 cases are imported due to importation of foreign worker and some Bhutanese returnees. He said there are no other options left than to import foreign worker since Bhutanese workers are not skilled. The other reason that Bhutan is likely to have more COVID-19 cases is illegal entries through porous borders.

The Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering requested all Bhutanese not to travel in country and abroad unless it is an emergency case. All the civil servants and institutions have been instructed to conduct meetings within 25 minutes, or otherwise not to hold any meetings that require many people to attend.

Lyonchhen said that if people do not follow the safety protocols and if there is a case then the government will have to lockdown.

He said that only 10 archers are allowed at a time and if there are people violating such norms then they should inform the government which can send the RBP.

He said the government can go for punitive measures but at the time the people will accuse it of being draconian. He called upon people to cooperate and not gather in large numbers.

Rixin said till now the mode or route of transmission was through direct or close contact (droplet transmission) through saliva or respiratory droplets, expelled while coughing, sneezing, talking and singing, and through indirect contact (fomite transmission) such as touching mouth, nose, ears and eyes after touching the infected or contaminated surfaces.

Current variants of public health concern are B 1.1.7 (UK variant), B.1.351 (South African variant), B.P (Brazil variant). These variants have not been detected in any samples. The new COVID-19 variants have high transmissibility leading to increased risk of hospitalization and high mortality rate.

So far, 51 percent of the COVID-19 cases reported in the country are from quarantine, 36 percent from active surveillance, 9 percent from the community and 3 percent from the flu clinic.

70 percent of the patients are male and 30 percent are female. The number of positive cases reported in the country is mostly between the age group of 25 to 34 years old and a single digit reported the age above 65.

The quarantine period range from 7 days, 14 days and 21 days. The reason for different quarantine period is because when a person is infected with COVID-19, a person remains asymptomatic until 7 days which is called window period and after that starts showing symptoms and after 21 to 28 days patients begins to recovers. After 14 days of quarantine, there is an 85 percent chance that a person is risk-free and more than 95 percent chance after 21 days of quarantine.

Meanwhile, in the Asian Region, Bhutan ranks 8th in testing for COVID-19 and 38th globally.

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