On Friday 18 February the Ministry of Health dashboard detected three community cases from Changbandhu.
The cases were from one family with a family member working in the Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA).
The MoH tested the entire RAPA staff and dancers and cordoned off the entire RAPA institute in Chubachu and declared it a red cluster.
It was found some of the primary contacts of the family had travel history to Phuentsholing.
The health team also found a high number of primary contacts for the family.
When asked initially on Friday evening if there will be a lockdown in Thimphu the Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that it will depend on the results of the primary case.
The National COVID-19 Taskforce based on the results decided by Saturday morning that there will be no lockdown.
Prior to this on 16 February a community case had been found in Kabesa, Thimphu and lockdown was still not declared.
This has led to some confusion on when a lockdown will be declared or not in Thimphu or other Thromdes and Dzongkhags for that matter.
Here the health minister said that there has been some communication issue on this, but the lockdown template remains the same as before.
“If we have a case and we don’t know where it came from then we do a lockdown, but if we know where the case or source came from we can track and map out everything and then we do not do a lockdown,” said Lyonpo.
She said the idea of a lockdown and a 24 to 72-hour blackout is to find where the cases came from and if they already know it then there is no lockdown and it is managed as a red building or cluster.
In the Kabisa case Lyonpo said that the person had been in quarantine in Phuentsholing for 7 days, but then the facility manager there turned positive and so this person and another one from Paro had to undergo four more days of quarantine as per the protocol and tested negative.
Then they came up on 12 February and both were asked to stay in home quarantine and they later both tested positive with the Kabisa case coming positive on 15 February and it being announced on 16 February.
Lyonpo said that it is not the number of cases that matter but if their source is clear and can be mapped out. She said that if there is even a single case in Thimphu’s whose origin is not known then a lockdown would be done.
In terms of the lockdown in Phuentsholing, Lyonpo expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the people of Phuentsholing since the rest of the country can function due to the lifeline from Phuentsholing.
She said that for Phuentsholing it is more complicated as it has to fight the virus and yet let import and export happen and with every truck coming in there is a risk of the virus coming in and this is why frontliners in Phuentsholing are testing positive and taking the bullet.
She said while she is aware of the difficulty faced by the people in Phuentsholing she is very grateful for the patience and solidarity extended by the people of Phuentsholing.
Addressing the panic over the large numbers of cases in Phuentsholing and also Wangdue and other places she said that more cases will come up as they are doing mass testing in the red areas whereas earlier testing was being done in green areas and yellow areas to turn it green.
She said the aim of the mass testing is to turn red areas into yellow and then green and manage cases in red clusters and buildings.
After the mass testing Phuentsholing is gradually being unlocked from 20th February onwards.