Community screening at household level would determine unlocking in Thimphu: Health Minister

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Community screening could not be conducted earlier because certain guidelines had to be followed

Around 10,000 households were tested as part of community screening and none tested positive; it is a good indication to unlock phase-wise as per the recommendation of the National COVID-19 taskforce, said Lyonpo Dasho Dechen Wangmo speaking on the mass testing on households that began yesterday in Thimphu.

“If there are no cases at the household level, the lockdown would be lifted,” she said. The mass screening would complete on January 19.

Considering Thimphu and Paro are red zones, Lyonpo said the ministry is conducting mass testing in Thimphu at the household level which is a gold standard that has not been conducted in any other country around the world.

She said 5,430 households were tested yesterday in Thimphu.

Lyonpo added that 12,000 have been tested in Paro and none were positive. “We have some confidence in saying that the virus has not spread widely,” she added.

For mass screening in Thimphu, an individual is tested from a household however, an individual residing in red house or building, primary contacts who have been notified by heath ministry, who have recovered from the COVID-19 infection and who got tested during the lockdown period are not tested.

Since the second lockdown on December 20, 4,000 primary contacts were being managed in the quarantine facilities and after 21 days in quarantine, only 500 remain.

“There is 8% of positivity among the primary contacts,” she added.

Lyonpo shared that the health ministry had not conducted community screening earlier since there are guidelines to be followed. “When there is infection, it is important to investigate the case that includes tracing the primary contacts, where the positive patient has travelled to, knowing the degree of infectivity of the areas and random testing to find the risk and reach of the infection.”

Lyonpo said that in the future, the lockdowns would not be enforced if a case or two were detected but the positive cases would be identified and managed in quarantine.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu

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