Wangdue outbreak and accountability

The common refrain during any national crisis is to work together and to not point out any issues.

However, with this attitude, we may never learn from our mistakes, and we will be condemned to repeat them.

The massive Omicron outbreak in ‘low risk’ Wangduephodrang is a matter that concerns everybody.

It is now clear that the JP Punatsangchu-II quarantine camp in Rurichu was not able to keep the virus in and currently this is seen as the most likely source of the outbreak.

From November 2021, when Omicron was discovered in South Africa the global alarm bells were ringing. By December 2021 it was spreading rapidly in India and across the world.

From past experience, Bhutan has seen an outbreak whenever there is a surge in cases in India.

It should have crossed the mind of the Technical Advisory Group under the Ministry of Health to advise the National COVID-19 Taskforce to temporarily stop the import of labour from India until the infection levels come down.

The sequence of events investigated by this paper show a clear link between the import of large numbers of positive cases to Wangdue and the outbreak there.

Instead, a large group of labourers were imported exactly at this period and were sent directly to Wangdue.

Another issue is the stubborn refusal by this government to still recognize the airborne nature of COVID-19 and take adequate precautions.

The many cases of frontliners testing positive even without direct contact, and after following all protocols in quarantine centers show the airborne nature of the virus, a fact even begrudgingly acknowledged by the WHO more than a year ago.

The decision by the DeSuung office to give N-95 masks and PPE to Desuups in quarantine centers with positive cases and also an additional specially trained Desuup is a welcome move.

The Wangdue outbreak is problematic not only in the number of cases but its potential impact on surrounding ‘low risk’ regions like Thimphu, Paro, Punakha etc.

We were all prepared for cases in the South and in some aspects the southern Dzongkhags have done their best, but the virus still came in due to the surge in India and the long border.

However, Wangdue was a big unexpected surprise. There must be a serious enquiry into the Wangdue outbreak and responsibility must be fixed whether at the agency or even individual level.

“Where there is no accountability, there will also be no responsibility.”
Sunday Adelaja

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