After several months without positive COVID-19 cases from the community, Phuentsholing detected one positive case from the community on 6 January 2022, while conducting a regular surveillance exercise by the Ministry of Health (MoH). Phuentsholing Thromde went under lockdown for 72-hours starting from 6 am Friday.
The person who tested positive from the community in Phuentsholing Throm was a 37-year-old woman, an expatriate worker from Alipur, West Bengal who has been working in the Lucky Restaurant and Bar as a cook since 2019.
She had received all three doses of vaccine, the recent booster dose included. As per the Southern COVID-19 Task Force (SC19TF), she had a sore throat, but has recovered. She does not have any other known medical conditions.
She had been staying in a restaurant with her co-worker who is also from India. The owner of the restaurant lives in Kabreyter with her husband and niece. She also has a male friend living in Kabreyter, but she has not been in contact with him since 30 December 2021.
SC19TF Member, Rixin Jamtsho, said the index case patient claimed that she hardly went out to meet anyone in the restaurant, as she is most of the time busy in the kitchen. The owner and co-workers do the shopping for the restaurant, and most of their customers are from peri-urban areas in Phuentsholing.
As she said she has been in Phuentsholing Throm since 2019, and did not visit any other place since then. SC19TF is investigating on how she could have contracted COVID-19. MoH, in coordination with the SC10TF, conducted epidemiological risk assessment and case investigation.
Her four primary contacts are co-workers and family members of the restaurant owner all tested negative for COVID-19. All 300 samples and others came out negative.
The swab samples of the index case and the primary contacts were sent to RCDC for confirmation and gene sequencing to identify the variant. MoH tested people who travelled from Phuentsholing to other dzongkhags and they also came out negative.
Rixin said it is a matter of time there is a local utbreak since there is a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, Omicron variants is present in India and West Bengal, alone, has reported more than 51,675 cases within the last 24 hours.
“We still import foreign workers and daily import and export is going on. There is risk of breaching protocols due to the porous borders,” he said.
The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering in the official PMO page stated that the trend has been such that every time there is a spike of cases in neighboring India and the region, Bhutan has seen the spillover in the country too.
“This should not have been the case if we all followed the COVID-19 protocols and containment measures. However, what happened to Phuentsholing can happen to any place, any time. Today, we must display our will and sense of responsibility even more. Every individual must do their part to prevent the spread of the disease. To begin with, please avoid unnecessary gathering and maintain all health standards,” the Prime Minister stated.
PM expressed his gratitude to the residents of Phuentsholing since they have proven to be very strong and supportive, so far.
SC19TF in Phuentsholing had called upon all people who visited Lucky Restaurant and Bar from 31 December 2021 to 6 January 2022 to register themselves for testing by calling 5555.
The restaurant is located below a quarantine hotel, but it was clarified that the hotel only keeps Bhutanese returnees and does not have any positive cases.
MoH also tested individuals who have traveled from Phuentsholing within the last three days from 3 January 2022 to other high risk areas to come forward for COVID-19 testing at their nearest flu clinic.
During the lockdown all offices and businesses were closed in Phuentsholing, and during the first 24-hours, all movement was suspended to conduct contact tracing. Essential movement including transport for exports and imports was facilitated after the completion of 24-hours blackout period.
Travel from Phuentsholing to other high-risk areas was not allowed. However, local residents returning to Phuentsholing and Samtse were facilitated, and those completing quarantine and traveling from Phuentsholing/Samtse to low-risk areas was also facilitated under escort till Sorchen.
All containment centers in Pasakha Industries approved by SC19TF were allowed to operate strictly in containment mode, and all the emergency medical services was facilitated by Mobile Health Team.
The good news came on 8th January 2022 when the MoH found all samples had tested negative.
The blackout period was lifted on 10th January 6 am, however, with certain restrictions as Omicron and Delta cases were surging in India.
Activities that are not allowed are moving out after 9.30 pm, social gatherings, karaokes and discos, sports, video games, snooker, visiting religious sites and religious congregations.
All those who visited Lucky Bar and Restaurant were asked to stay in home quarantine till 14th January.