Even relaxation to happen in phases
On the first day of the national lockdown Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering came on national television at 7 am in the morning in a somber mood and announced a national lockdown which he said could last five to six days due to the case of the 27-year-old Gelephu case lady.
However, now the ultimate duration of the lockdown will depend on the outcome of the more serious COVID-19 cases among the loaders and their first contacts in Phuentsholing.
In an interview to the paper on day two of the lockdown after the first Phuentsholing case had emerged, he said that the current lockdown would be for a minimum of seven to eight days to serve its two main purposes.
He said, “One is to break the chain of communication. The other is if I am positive and locked down for at least seven, eight or nine days, the virus will be finished. If I get the disease, in three to four days I start getting symptoms and by seven, eight or nine days most of the patients will be symptomatic and after being symptomatic after five to six days you are all right and you become auto negative.”
He said since there is no anti viral treatment those who are getting alright are through self cure.
“So lockdown is to break the chain and ensure if I am positive you don’t get it from me and secondly it is a containment or treatment mode where I am all by myself with the virus and if I am cured then I can go out,” said the PM.
“Any lockdown that is less than seven to eight days does not serve this purpose. The lockdown of seven to eight days will help break the chain, lead to self treatment and Ministry of Health can cordon off cases,” said Lyonchhen.
On being asked about the Phuentsholing case the PM said the length of the lockdown would depend on how soon they can trace the primary and secondary contacts.
“If all suspected people are already identified and isolated then there is no point continuing beyond seven days,” said the PM.
He pointed out that the lockdown would not be extended simply by the number of cases coming up around the Phuentsholing case.
He said, “If we can do everything for the Phuentsholing case within 5 to 6 days then so be it and that is even better.”
Lyonchhen said that while testing if they come across someone testing positive with no travel history and no contacts with those coming from outside then it is a case of local transmission and from there on the situation will be different.
“The lockdown can be lifted if we can trace and test all the people and so people should cooperate. If people cooperate and we can test all the people and if results come negative then it should not take more than eight or nine days,” said the PM.
Before the 12 cases came up on day three of the lockdown the PM had said that if all the first contacts of the Phuentsholing case test negative then it will not be extended much but if others test positive then they would see.
The PM said that he can’t say how long current lockdown will last but it will depend on contact tracing by MoH.
“I don’t think it will be very long as we are hopeful since the Phuentsholing case was contained in a certain area,” said the PM.
The PM said if a driver is infected and had travelled to other Dzongkhags then the lockdown will be extended but if it is only in the work area with a few more of this fellow loaders being infected then it will not be extended much.
Lyonchhen on day three of the lockdown after 12 more cases in Phuentsholing came to light said that they will know the condition of Phuentsholing in three days. This is because it takes up to three days for the virus to show when re-tests will be done.
“If tests are done and there are no big risks then the lockdown will be relaxed a bit but if there are more cases and risks then the lockdown will continue for a longer period and it will get more and more strict,” said the PM.
He said even when the lockdown is lifted it will not be at once and back to normal, but it will depend on the areas and the situation and an assessment of the 20 Dzongkhags.
“We will see what is causing problems to the public and what needs to be relaxed to help the public. He said when relaxation happens the lockdown would be relaxed in phases like phase one and phase two,” said the PM.