Government activates nationwide lockdown

The nation woke up to the news of the activation of nationwide lockdown following a report of a COVID-19 positive case outside the quarantine facility in Gelegphu. And the mood was not different from the fateful morning of March 6 when the first case in the country was detected in a 76-year-old tourist.

People who saw the lockdown information on social media platforms rushed to the market to stock up on essentials early in the morning to beat the official announcement which was made at 7.00 am. While many took on social media sharing their frustrations on the ad-hoc decision for the lockdown, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, addressing the Nation in the morning today, said the unprecedented lockdown is enforced to identify and isolate all positive cases immediately breaking the chain of transmission:

“The Health Ministry and our experts have lots to do during the lockdown period. For example, as of now, we have successfully traced 71 individuals who have come across directly with the woman. Further, we have to again sit with her and find out more on people who have come in direct contact with her. And if we happen to find that the primary contacts are also infected with the virus, then we have to further trace people who have come in direct contact with the infected persons.”

Under the guidance of His Majesty The King, led by the Prime Minister, the National COVID-19 Taskforce meeting was held last night for proper coordination and implementation of the lockdown after the woman was confirmed of being infected with the virus.

She returned from Kuwait on June 26 and was placed in a mandatory quarantine facility in Paro. The Health Ministry extended her quarantine for a week after she tested positive for the virus thrice on the Rapid test kits. However, throughout her stay in the facility, she tested negative for the virus six times on the RT-PCR test.

She was sent home after a month of quarantine after testing negative on the RT-PCR test. However, in keeping with the health protocol, she was advised to report to a flu clinic on August 10. She reported to a flu clinic in Gelegphu yesterday, where she tested positive on Rt-PCR. She was immediately isolated at the COVID centre, while contact tracings were initiated right away. A total of 97 contacts were traced as of 5.20 am today.

She came in close contacts with people from Thimphu, Gelephu, and Paro.

Lyonchhen said considering the decent number of people she came across in the two weeks time, the lockdown is expected to last for a week or less:

“After being discharged from the quarantine centre, until yesterday, in the two weeks time she has visited many places and came across numerous people. I think the lockdown will last for a week or 5 to 6 days. Since we are already aware and projected various issues during such lockdown periods, we are optimistic of addressing the issues and problems associated with the lockdown.”

Lyonchhen further reiterated the support from the general public in such times will also play a major role in determining the duration of the lockdown period.

All schools, institutions, offices and commercial establishments will remain closed until further notice. Likewise, ongoing exams will be postponed while the students and trainees in boarding facilities should continue to remain on campus and follow COVID-19 protocols. On the part of the government, during the lockdown period, the government will ensure testing of all suspects, quarantine of close contacts and isolation and treatment of confirmed cases. The government will also ensure coordination and facilitate the distribution of essential food supplies and emergency medical services in all the districts.

Meanwhile, the government requests everyone to strictly follow the lockdown directives.

Passang Dorji

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