The Ministry of Health (MoH) is ready with the Community Transmission Mitigation Strategy if the country goes into the red zone. MoH’s objective will shift from prevention to reducing mortality and morbidity and to protect the most vulnerable population in the country.
Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said if there is community transmission, with all the strategy in place, the government should be able to achieve zero percent mortality. COVID-19 testing would continue as testing kits has made available in all the health facilities.
MoH has asked every school to submit the list of names of the students with existing medical conditions, in order to mitigate the risk, and similarly in the community, the ministry has all the list of elderly population and the patients with comorbid conditions in 205 gewogs.
Currently, the country has four COVID-19 centers in Gelephu, Phuenstsholing, Thimphu and Mongar, with the capacity for make COVID-19 confirmation.
Lyonpo said technologically, the ministry has developed two systems, the early warning system and the COVID-19 surveillance system. The systems send notification on any suspected case in the country to Lyonpo, and within 24 hours all the contact tracing should be done. The ministry has already trained a group of team for this. As for allocating human resources, MoH has already mapped out doctors and retired doctors, and they all know from each district which team will be going if there is community transmission.
“We have systems in place, resources are mobilized, both in equipment and medicines. So even if some dzongkhags come under lockdown, they should have enough supply of medicines, and it is already distributed and ready. If it comes, we are fair to say we are ready. We have already developed the testing protocols,” said Lyonpo.
Lyonpo said if suppose Gelephu has the community transmission, 13 health workers will move from Tsirang and four health workers will move from Sarpang, five health workers will move from Chuzergang and four from Pangbang to contain it. Similarly, other dzongkhags will do the same.
Currently, Bhutan has only has imported cases. As for the different forms of transmission, Lyonpo said there could also be sporadic case, where if a person released from quarantine facility infects a relative then the case is defined as a sporadic case. Another type of transmission is cluster, which can be transmitted from a crowd. If a person manages to infect any of the sellers or buyers in the vegetable market, and a few people get infected, then that is defined as cluster, which is venue based. Then a community transmission occurs when there are a multiple clusters and a person does not know where and when the person caught the infection.
Meanwhile, Lyonpo said she has been criticized for being a pessimist as saying that the community transmission is going to happen. No one knows from where and when. “The more preventive measures we take now, the lesser impact will be there,” Lyonpo further said.