Lifting of lockdown will depend on the tests coming out from the community and the risks

Whether the national lockdown would be extended or lifted, will all depend on the positivity of the tests that are coming out from the community.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said as the ministry assesses the risk, and within some days the ministry will contact trace them and once the contact tracing is finished, of all the community cases in Phuentsholing, the ministry will test the contacts.

She said if all of them test negative then there will be fairly very less risk but again, if there are any positive cases coming in then the whole scenario will change. So everything really depends on the positivity of the tests that are coming out from the community.

Lyonpo said that lockdown has been proven very effective in breaking the chain of transmission and it also depends on the design of the lockdown. She cited an example saying that in many countries they have experienced a roller coaster rides, where suddenly when you have a lockdown the cases go down and then suddenly you open the lockdown and the cases goes up.

“While Bhutan is trying to prevent that from happening, Bhutan is not going to have the same peak but it might have a smaller peak and to achieve that it becomes the collective responsibility of everyone and not just the Ministry of Health,” said Lyonpo.

Lyonpo said the relaxing of the lockdown will depend on the risks. “Experts say that we will known within 21 days but in the case of Bhutan our aim is different to stop the spread and prevent even a single death.We have taken additional steps so far for safety and so the MoH is looking at framework for lockdown and unlocking,”said  Lyonpo.

She also said lockdown does not guarantee that there will be no transmission. There can be transmission prior to even the lockdown and they would be carrying the virus and then they become symptomatic and then through the surveillance they are picked up. “So in no means people should not misunderstand that the moment you have lockdown that the transmission is not there,” said Lyonpo.

“The moment there is relaxation of lockdown, and if people go back to the normal, in terms of crowding or having a very poor compliance to use of mask, hand washing and not being careful with where you are going, then it is evident and it has been proven in many countries that it is going to spike and the spike might be even bigger,” said Lyonpo.

Lyonpo requested the public that people take this very seriously that in absence of treatment or in absence of a vaccine, the non-pharmaceutical interventions such as basic public health precautions of hand washing, using masks, avoiding crowds, ventilating the area, being careful of what is around you has been proven as of now to really work and so they should adopt these new behaviors.

“Unless we do that I think we are going to pick up cases and subsequently I think we will have many more lockdowns,” said the Health Minister.

The Health Minister said there has been many queries on the MoH website or social media platforms in terms of people’s curiosity on who these community cases are and this is hovering on many people’s mind.

 She said for Ministry of Health, what matters is where these cases are coming from to determine what action the health ministry will take or the nation will take. So if it is coming from a community or from a quarantine and a contact trace, then the ministry has different strategy to address these three means of transmission.

“Secondly for us, time and again His Majesty has been mentioning that even if we have community transmission, as a small nation we must work towards having a zero fatality and this is where ministry is committed to in terms of achieving that,” said Lyonpo.

“Thirdly when somebody turns positive, for me, my upmost interest is in the age of this person and whether this person has comorbidities or not as there is higher risk for them,” said the Health Minister.

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