Cabinet Secretary Sangay Duba

NC19TF plans to put primary contacts in home quarantine as Dzongkhags go short on Quarantine Facilities

With an increase in number of COVID-19 positive cases in the country, the pressure on Quarantine Facilities (QF) is increasing each day, especially with having to put all the primary contacts of the positive cases under quarantine.

The situation, for now, is manageable as there is no acute shortage. However, alternative ways are being looked at to address the issue, mainly in places that do not have hotels that can be readily converted to QF.

According to Cabinet Secretary Sangay Duba, the requirement of QF for positive cases and their contacts is increasing and the availability and shortage of QF will be on a case-by-case basis in respective districts.

He said, “When the case detection is increasing around the country, the duty deployment also increases at the same time.”

He further said that all the frontliners have to be kept under containment mode, which is why the burden on the availability of QF is somehow heavy.

This time, there are frontliners who got infected, and it is a fact that they are prone to get infected, he said. Therefore, the frontliners are segregated and put up in a different accommodation. In the past, all the frontliners were put under the same accommodation. With the current scenario, the need for QF has drastically increased.

“Having said that, in Thimphu, the situation has not gone to an extent where it has become a serious issue. Likewise, we are managing quite well in Thimphu, Paro and Phuentsholing due to availability of hotels. There is no acute shortage, for now, as the recovery rate is also good,” he added.

However, he said, “We have a bit of shortage of QF and isolation facilities in Wangduephodrang, Sarpang, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Tsirang with limited availability of hotels. The public space is also very limited in those places.”

The shortage is caused as all the primary contacts of positive cases are put under quarantine. Suddenly the number of community cases and their primary contacts has shot up, he said.

In addition, he said that facilitating the stranded person has contributed to shortage of QF. Those travelling from red districts to green and yellow districts have to undergo 7 days quarantine, and thereby, the burden has further been increased.

As an alternative, for instance, he said that those traveling from Wangdue can be brought to as far as Paro and Thimphu for quarantine. This has already been done for managing the stranded people, and this is one solution to ease the situation, he added.

He said, “Phuentsholing is under complete lockdown, and the situation is manageable, for now, but having said that, there are some issues as the hotels are filling up with primary contacts and stranded people.”

Meanwhile, as a temporary measure, they are now using various institutions and possible schools to be used as isolation facilities and QF.

Though the primary contacts are put under QF until now, the National COVID-19 Task Force has plans to have primary contacts placed under home quarantine to ease the pressure on QF.

He said, “Monitoring the home quarantine would be challenging, but we feel that with whatever instructions given to the primary contacts and knowing the risk imposed by the virus to their family members and to the community, I feel that they might cooperate.”

However, in some Dzongkhags like Wangdue and Tsirang primary contacts were placed in home quarantine at various times due to the shortage of facilities.

The government’s expenditure on QF has shot up in recent times, as they have putting in quite a lot of people in quarantine. However, they have reduced the quarantine period, which is why to some extent, the figure might balance out, he added.

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