Spike in cases will not affect lockdown relaxations

Dr. Sonam Wangchuk, Specialist with Royal Centre for Disease Control under the Ministry of Health and the member of the technical advisory   group

Task force members said the number of Covid cases will not be taken into account as a rationale to ease lockdowns

SONAM PENJOR | Thimphu

Dr Sonam Wangchuk, a member of the technical advisory group, said that they will not consider the number of covid cases as a rationale to ease lockdowns.

This was iterated during the live session on Bhutan Broadcasting Service on 18 March where he said the ministry will rather look at the rate of community transmission and other factors before implementing new lockdowns.

He said their indicators will be altered from the total case count to the positive rate and the bed occupancy rate in the hospital.

“We will monitor and interventions will be done as per our findings. Currently, the country follows the positivity rate at the national level as well in the statistics level,” Dr. Sonam said.

He added that currently most of the districts still carry out active testing for contentment purposes and for relaxation. He said there are still some primary contacts kept in the houses or red buildings since most of the districts are following that.

“That’s why the positive rate is reflected very high, but in reality it is only 23 percent which we have observed from the day we started relaxations,” he said.

Dr Sonam said that even in Phuentsholing the infection rate is a bit high but is gradually stabilizing. He said that the spike in cases cannot also be directly attributed to relaxations of lockdowns in the town.

 “Maybe after the fourth week of fully opening up, we may attain the peak, and then it may drop. That’s how we are assuming based on the current trend of positive rate and the rate of vaccines,” he said.

As of now, the hospitalization rate is very minimal. For hospitalization, he said, they have developed a category that the ministry will test only those who have symptoms. They will also not test those who are in close contact unlike before.

He said visitors from other dzongkhags will be subjected to antigen tests after which there will be some risk assessment questionnaire and will be advised to stay in home isolation.

As of today, he said that the country has only nine covid patients who are in the Covid hospital which accounts for 0.05 percent only which is very low. “But if we look to the other countries, that are affected by the omicron, the hospitalization rate is below two, which shows ours is very much comfortable and even the mortality rate.”

In addition, he said “If we put into the proportion for the mortality rate, we have seen our mortality rate is just 0.03 percent.I think with the slow relaxations, we are actually following the same what the other countries are doing. Hospitalization rate, we are doing much better.”

Based on that, he said that the ministry has done some estimation considering the worst-case scenario as the omicron which is highly transmissible, the ministry has projected the need and the required for hospitalization, oxygen, and ICU. The ministry projected to 60 percent of the population would be infected by the omicron.

Based on that, Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that the projected case detection of 44,000, out of which, 2,203 cases will be required for hospitalization, little over 800 would require oxygen, and 82 would require ICU.

This case is not going to come in one time, in addition, he said “Based on that, we are comfortable and I think we can manage and can oversee this pandemic.”

Currently, the country has a bed capacity of around 700 for Covid hospitalization. Therefore, considering this, “We are very much comfortable.”