MoH’s Omicron Strategy is to eliminate the virus and focus on life over livelihood

As of 24th January there are 992 COVID-19 positive cases in the country.

Technical Advisory Group (TAG) member Dr Tshokey said most of the positive cases are fully vaccinated and there has been no serious cases among the COVID-19 positive patients so far in terms of needing oxygen or ventilators in the isolation hospital.

All the asymptomatic and mild cases are managed in the identified isolation facilities. So far, all the positive patients are either asymptomatic or having mild symptoms.

Dr Tshokey explained that Omicron is a highly infectious disease compared to the original virus and Delta. The infections in the PHPA area has really gone up since everybody is exposed to the virus. And if all the individuals remain at home and follow the COVID-19 protocols then that will help in containing the virus in Wangduephodrang.

Dr Sithar explained there is a sudden surge of COVID-19 cases in Wangdue because there are thousands of project people working there and people are working in a very close environment. So these are the main factors which leads to an upsurge of COVID-19 cases.

Sarpang Dzongkhag has one of the highest COVID-19 cases. Gelephu has also become one of the hot spots and has only one specialist at the Gelephu hospital. Dr Tshokey said mobilizing specialists will cause inconvenience, so they will be rationalizing mobilization where it is required. Everybody should understand that there are limited health workers and specialists. So the health ministry will deploy health workers where they are genuinely required.

The Ministry of Health has come up with the Omicron Strategy that the country is following currently. Director and Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Dr Sithar Dorjee said the overall policy is the elimination of the virus which means life over livelihood.

Dr Sithar said Omicron is highly transmissible and relatively causes lower hospitalization compared to Delta variant. Nevertheless, it is very important to know that if elderly or vulnerable population, people who are oxygen dependent or terminally ill patient gets infected with the Omicron then they may die of the Omicron.

So that is why the main policy is to follow the elimination and focus on the vulnerable group. Every time where there is a COVID-19 outbreak, the team enquires with each house hold on whether they have any such individuals and then individuals are isolated to provide them better protection or they will be closely monitored. The second thing is protecting all the health care workers since there is only one intensive care unit (ICU) doctor, one Nephrologist, one Neurosurgeon and overall very limited specialists in the country.

Meanwhile, with the rising number of cases, hospitalization and growing number of cases in the country, the national task force said that for all twenty districts regardless of the color, there are no mass gathering including celebrations, religious congregations, occasions such as birthdays, promotions and all other festive event allowed. 

There will be no inter district travel between any of the colors. If the travel is deemed essential, there will have to be an approval from the local task force. Free crematory funeral services will be facilitated with a pass including transfer of dead bodies within the inter districts. It will be facilitated by the Red Cross program as usual.

While Rimdros and Lochoe may continue, they cannot have guests or any kind of gathering. All sporting events has been suspended.

Thimphu being the capital and with higher population, the health ministry appealed to the public to be careful and not to mix around to visit neighbors or relatives in light of Omicron.

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