The Health Minister said that when it comes to Thimphu they have a general risk assessment criterion which looks at population, mobility, positive cases and containment measures.
She said that of the four criteria Thimphu already fulfills three of them. Thimphu has high population with around 150,000 people all living together, high mobility and containment will be challenging as cases come up.
She said that if Thimphu gets positive cases then it is at high risk as it will be difficult to contain the cases and it can spread like wildfire.
She said it will be easier if people take individual responsibility and follow the MoH protocols.
On the issue of mass testing of Thimphu the COVID-19 Taskforce has designed a plan for Thimphu including a survey by the PMO through social media on who should get tested but that mass testing is not happening for now.
According to sources the testing was supposed to happen if any of the Phuentsholing people who arrived in Thimphu had tested positive but with all testing negative that has been put on hold.
Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that if mass screening is like vaccination, they would like to do it but mass screening is not a vaccination as they may mass screen today and tomorrow that population is still at risk.
“Thimphu has no indication of outbreaks as we had combed Thimphu in many ways. We have done testing on all high risk groups, hundreds of tests are being done in Thimphu everyday, flu clinics are running throughout the country and similarly in Thimphu the flu clinic is screening people every day, all patients and their attendants getting admitted to all the hospitals especially like JDWNRH are getting tested and yet we have no evidence of cases until now,” said the PM.
“To me, professionally, there is no indication to screen Thimphu. We had a small indication to screen Phuentsholing and we did it and we got the results and we told the nation about it,” he added.
He said that Samdrup Jongkhar town is being screened due to the cases there.
The PM invited people to let them know of any indications to screen Thimphu residents that they have missed.
“Professionally under any text book and even beyond that there is no indication,” said the PM.
He said thousands of tests have been done in Thimphu which include all Thimphu residents who came from Phuentsholing from 1st till 12th of August, all frontline workers have been screened before coming out on duty and when they left their duty and all three armed forces institutions (RBA, RBG and RBP), DANTAK and IMTRAT are being screened and and all of the above are negative so far.
He said flu clinics pick up a few dozen samples everyday and they are all negative.
The PM said that even in the scenario of if there is local or silent spread 60 to 70 percent of the diseases is symptomatic and people would have come up but for the last month nobody came up.
“If there is a local spread it should also be from the high risk and mobile group like frontline workers, flu clinic and patients visiting the hospitals and they are all negative. ‘I feel…’ should not be the reason to screen Thimphu,” said the PM.
He said the Phuentsholing cases got picked up from the flu clinic and that is the tested and proven path. “Should we in Thimphu get one like that then we are here,” said the PM.
“If suddenly we see one positive case tomorrow and if he says he was in Phuentsholing day before yesterday and he went across the border then we just need to trace his primary and test them. If the primary is positive then yes (for mass testing),” said the PM
The PM said that if there is one government which is managing the pandemic in the most professional way, then it is Bhutan.
He said that people should not create fear in the minds of the public saying this government is not screening Thimphu.
“Right now what we need is to fight the pandemic efficiently and professionally and at the same time set some sort of normalcy in the minds of the people and given them comfort, assurance and confidence,” said the PM.
He said if there is a positive case, people need not worry as the government and the health system is there and it will be taken care of.
“If you have a measuring instrument to measure how Phuentsholing is being managed, then we will rate the highest. We have managed that very professionally and so a similar format can be applied on Thimphu,” said the PM.
He said that right now if the government is to screen Thimphu then it will require to be locked down for 10 days to test everybody. On an average one team can sample 100 cases in a day. For Thimphu the maximum the government can deploy is 50 teams.
In Phuentsholing 20 teams had been deployed. He said such a large team itself is a risk with travelling.
“If I gather double the number of teams than Phuentsholing then it is 40. Each team with so much difficulty can take 100 samples a day. But then if there is an indication to screen Thimphu then people have to be indoors and cannot be allowed to move freely. The trade off is not easy,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen said if they lockdown Thimphu any day longer few people will come out and just shout.
Lyonchhen said he is willing to debate anyone who feels Thimphu needs mass testing without any cases coming out so far.
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