It was supposed to be a press conference, but following the detection of the first COVID-19 case in the country, the Members of Parliament who were assembled with the reporters also raised questions to the government regarding the plans and strategies to contain the virus.
Lhaki Dolma, NC, Member of Parliament of Punakha said that the outbreak is something concerning. She said that the government informed everyone in the country regarding their plans and strategies to contain the virus and people should appreciate the work carried out by the government.
She said that Schools and institutes in Thimphu, Paro and Punakha are closed for next two weeks and her concern is over the ongoing Tsechhu festival.
“My concern is with regard to the ongoing Punakha Tshechu where many people are gathered. People who are well-read can take precautionary measures while those from rural and uneducated may not know what to do,” she said.
In line to this, she asked Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering on how to further enhance the measures in creating awareness in such gathering.
Responding to the question Lyonchhen Dr. Lotay Tshering said that the government is worried about the outbreak and whereby in few hours they could trace 26 primary contacts/person who came into contact with the infected patient.
In addition, they could trace 26 potential, high risk secondary contacts, making it total to 46 people. They could identify all the people and they were informed, he said, adding that this is because of the preparedness.
“With support from all the relevant stakeholders and His Majesty The King, they could do a good job in few hours which could have taken more than a week,” he added.
Lyonchhen said that the government cannot ask ongoing Tshechu to be put at halt but rather request people to avoid mass gathering as far as possible. He added that they have decided to go ahead with an international marathon which is going to take place on March 7 with more than 100 international participants.
“The marathon will keep them engaged and they may not go to witness the ongoing Tshechu in Punakha. We will see the situation in next few months and if situation gets worse than we may have to cancel Paro Tshechu,” Lyonchhen said.
MP Karma Wangchuk from Chumey Ura said that it is unfortunate to have such outbreak in the country. Keeping those in mind, he said that being a religious country, having faith in Ken-Cho-Sum and praying hard is one medicine. “It would be good if government can come together with Zhung Dratshang for any rituals,” he added.
He said, “Traditional hospital in Kawajangsa has come up with Nakpa Ghojur (sanitizer) which a person can wear around to avoid getting the disease. They have come up with the medicine last week and on the night of Thursday they have taken those to Je Khenpo for Thukmin and Jinlab.”.
On this Lyonchhen said that they were not aware of the initiative. However, now they will get in touch with the traditional hospital and support them at their best. And Home Ministry will take the lead in organizing hosting prayers in the country.
Chukha MP Sangay Dorji said that this is not something government alone can tackle; this is responsibility of every citizen. Government is doing their best. However, banning the entry of tourist would be more appropriate.
Meanwhile, he said, “Like closing schools and institution in three Dzongkhags which is for the everyone’s good, if they can do the same for all the schools and institutions in remaining Dzongkhags.”
He said that they can adjust their studies during summer and winter vacation. In addition, he also said that everyone must now come together and contribute towards tackling the situation as it would be burden if left on government alone.
In response, Lyonchhen said that they can close all the schools but they have to see if that has any benefit.
“If the condition gets to a lock down situation than we will close everything and if needed we would implement ways to make everything sufficient. Covering syllabus wouldn’t be an issue,” he said.
Gasa MP Dorji Khandu raised his concern over the outbreak whereby he questioned government on poor facilities in quarantine area, closure of schools, banning Bhutanese from travelling to affected countries and to put halt any religious programs/ gathering in the country.
In the wake of the first confirmed case of COVID -19, the general public are advised to practice preventive measures properly and stay safe and informed.