Thimphu is detecting 15 to 30 COVID-19 cases daily from the community ever since the Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) resumed the symptomatic screening and treatment for flu-like illness and TB at the Flu Clinic located at RBP Ground (Helipad) starting from 5 September 2022.
Most of the reported cases are from the flu clinics.
An official from MoH said Bhutan has been detecting COVID-19 cases from the community in the past few weeks. In the beginning, just 10-15 positive cases from the community were detected in Thimphu.
The official stated the multiple reasons for an increasing number of COVID-19 cases nationwide. He said even in the past, the COVID-19 trend was up and down, most probably because of the seasonal variations, which means a decrease in three months and an increase for another three months.
“We see it is gradually increasing from September to November, and again it goes down,” he added.
Another reason is the effect on neighboring states. Since Bhutan has commuters and people moving every day, especially the foreign workers and Bhutanese who are going out for some business and other purposes, it is possible that they are bringing in the virus because those groups are always testing COVID-19 positive from the southern region.
And now, in Thimphu also, there are 150 positive cases in the community as of 16 September 2022, and on 15 September 2022, 27 positive cases were detected from the flu clinic, which was the highest so far after resuming the symptomatic screening and treatment in Thimphu.
Now it is becoming cold, and especially the virus is favorable for the dry climate and it gets multiplied during the winter season. When it is a dry season, it is easy to create aerosol. These are the major reasons for the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
The official said currently, all the positive cases are kept in home isolation and not in isolation facilities because it is high time that Bhutanese people must take self-responsibility and take care of themselves. For the office-goers, MoH is recommending five days of home isolation and encouraging the booster dose. While hospital staff are released from their duty as soon as they test positive.
MoH is encouraging people to wear their face masks while visiting public places and gatherings.
Of the 150 COVID-19 positive cases, there are no small kids who have tested positive. The only concern is those people who are admitted to the medical ward and people with comorbidities.
COVID-19 is similar to flu, but the risk is posed to those vulnerable groups of population and comorbidities patients because if they get the virus, these patients are more likely to die with pneumonia infection.
The positive cases might increase in the coming weeks, but MoH requested the public not to worry since Bhutan has a good coverage of vaccinations and has achieved herd immunity. He said the virus is everywhere, but not many people are infected due to good coverage of vaccines. And there will not be a large outbreak in the community.
“If suppose we are not vaccinated then by this time, there will be a big outbreak.”
The current variant is B.4 and B.5 in the country. Now that borders will be reopening, it is likely that the number of cases can increase. However, MoH is planning on how to contain a large outbreak of COVID-19 in the community.
There are four types of commuters, the first one is tourists, they will have to test anyway, secondly, foreign workers who are working on construction sites, they will have to go through medical screening and get tested, thirdly, day workers will have to show vaccination certificates and vaccination card systems. Fourthly, casual visitors must have 24 to 74 hours of test validity and vaccination certificate.
The official said any person coming into the country will have to provide a vaccination certificate or do a RT-PCR. For those daily workers, for industries, workshops, and shops who are most likely to bring in the virus, they must have compulsory vaccination otherwise, they will not be allowed to enter the country. MoH will also implement a card system that reflects their vaccination status, especially for those groups who are coming in and out on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, all individuals with flu-like symptoms are requested to visit the flu clinic for testing and treatment. People who are vaccinated should get their booster dose
All the patients visiting the hospital with flu-like symptoms are diverted to the flu clinic from the reception. And no one is allowed to enter the hospital without a face mask.