English | Dzongkha Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Health Ministry outlines strategies to mitigate community transmission

Jul 3, 2020

In an effort to mitigate community transmission of the Coronavirus the health ministry is implementing four strategies, which include intensifying testing, enhancing surveillance and surge capacity, and promoting behaviour change among the public.

Speaking at the press brief today, the health minister said mitigation strategies are critical as community transmission is inevitable.

With the health ministry starting RT-PCR testing facility at Gelegphu Central Regional Referral hospital since yesterday, the facility is now available across all regions in the country. The ministry has also initiated antigen testing across the Southern border. The minister said these measures will intensify the testing of Coronavirus in the communities.

“From today, we are initiating a new test- antigen testing which will take swab samples from throat and nose to detect the virus within 30 minutes’ time. In the first phase, we will start antigen testing in all hospitals across the border areas. We have trained people and started testing along the Southern border. And within one to two weeks’ time we will be able to start antigen testing in hospitals across the country,” said Lyonpo.

The ministry is also training village health workers, school health coordinators and is also asking offices to identify COVID safety officers to enhance surveillance for early detection if there is any community transmission.

“We have more than 1000 village health workers so these people along with Local Governments will report cases of community transmission. We will also enhance surveillance in schools and offices. We have school health coordinators in schools and we are currently training them in case there is a case in any of the schools. Likewise, as are asking the offices to identify COVID safety officers and we will start training them in the coming weeks,” she added.

There will also be periodic testing of high-risk groups such as bus, truck and taxi drivers and passive health-based surveillance at hospitals to enhance surveillance.

The third strategy is to enhance the ability of the healthcare facilities to handle a large number of cases. If there is a community transmission, only symptomatic positive cases of the Coronavirus will be treated at the hospital.

“Currently we are taking all the positive cases to the hospital. This will change if we have community transmission. We will then keep the asymptomatic cases in isolation facility where trained Desuups whom we call Desuup Plus will take care of the cases and only symptomatic cases will be referred to hospital,” said Lyonpo.

The minister said there are 635 beds to take care of symptomatic cases in hospitals and 54 ICU beds for severely ill cases in four hospitals in Thimphu, Phuentshogling, Gelegphu and Monggar.

The minister also highlighted that promoting behaviour change among the public is the most critical strategy to prevent and mitigate community transmission. “As we are all aware we do not have any cure for the virus for now. Using masks, washing hands, physical distancing and avoiding mass gatherings are all the experts identified ways to prevent the spread of the virus.”

The minister shared that these strategies are critical in preventing community transmission as schools re-open and people adapt to the new normal.

Phub Gyem

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