MoH keeping a close eye on the increasing COVID-19 cases in the country: Health Minister

As of 19 September there were 319 COVID-19 cases with the majority being from Thimphu but on 26 September the Ministry of Health did not share the weekly COVID information board.

More than 969 people visited the flu clinic in Thimphu in September 2022, of which 283 people including 12 children tested positive for COVID-19.  This means a positivity rate close to around 30 percent for those coming in for testing.

The age ranges from 9-year-old children to 91-year-old elderly people, coming for COVID-19 tests in the flu clinic.

An official from the flu clinic said they have been seeing people coming for COVID-19 tests daily, and apart from COVID-19 tests, people are also coming forward for TB screening.

Most of the people coming for tests are asymptomatic, however, there are a few who have flu-like symptoms. The official said those who are testing positive for COVID-19 do not have any travel history to infected countries, which means COVID-19 cases are detected from the community.

The MoH official said that the COVID-19 cases are expected to gradually increase from September to November, as the coronavirus spreads more during the dry season, as it is easy to create aerosols.

Tho WHO spokesperson shared, in one of the international news agencies, that COVID-19 is not a seasonal virus. The coronavirus can spread to the human body every season, but when the weather gets colder, people tend to spend more time indoors, and this is why the risk of transmission of the virus is higher in winter.

The Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said all the vulnerable groups have been vaccinated with a third dose, so vaccines do provide a lot of protection.

“We are also keeping a close eye on the virulence of the virus, the mutation of the virus, hospitalization, and critical case. Despite the number of positive cases being high, the hospitalization is zero so far,” said Dasho Dechen Wangmo.

The Health Minister said Bhutan is still continuing to advocate for vaccination. Vaccination for 5 to 11 years is happening currently in the country, and the coverage is 73.7 percent. And next time around, there will be flu season, and it is necessary for the public to follow COVID-19 safety measures.

The health ministry is also monitoring the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, and the numbers are likely to increase, but it is more important to look into hospitalization and criticality.

Currently, Bhutan has BA.4 and BA.5 and it could be the reason for no hospitalization because the combination of these two variants is less virulence and more so with vaccinations.

The positivity rate is below 1 percent. Almost 5,000 people are tested for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Ms Patricia Lacina, Charge DÁffaires of the US Embassy in India who is currently in the country formally handed over 51,480 doses of adult Pfizer vaccines to the Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo on 29 September 2022. The Health Minister, on behalf of the Royal Government of Bhutan, thanked the people and the government of the United States of America for their unwavering support.

The US government has further committed to provide another 129,600 doses of pediatric Pfizer vaccine towards December 2022.

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