January 18, 2021

Mega zones to be observed for another week before declaring green

Much to the relief of residents in Thimphu and Paro, the national Covid-19 taskforce (NC19TF) has initiated the first phase unlocking in the two red zones since Sunday.

This means that the initial understanding of maintaining zero positive case from the community for 14 straight days to consider any relaxation in the two dzongkhags no longer apply.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo last evening said that the 14-day threshold was the World Health Organisation’s condition to declare a disease free status.

Lyonpo however, said that the confidence to unlock Thimphu and Paro comes from the little or no cases that are being detected from the communities of late.

Chairperson with the health ministry’s technical advisory group (TAG), Dr Sithar Dorjee, said that while the above condition was one of the many criteria for unlocking, there were other evidences that suggested the outbreak was under control in the two dzongkhags.

He said that in the last few days, all positive cases detected were among the primary contacts of those who had tested positive earlier. “To further establish that the outbreak was contained, we started the mass screening in Thimphu and Paro.”

The mass screening includes testing of a single member (most active) from every household. Any positive case from the zones, Dr Sithar said that the ministry would isolate the patient,  quarantine his or her close contacts and sweep the area once again, if needed.

He said that if there are no positive cases picked from the mass surveillance, the places would be marked as ‘yellow zones’ and certain relaxation within the Covid-19 norms would be made available.

“We will observe these yellow zones for one more week and then conduct random testing to qualify them as green zones,” he said.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo on Saturday said that although relaxations were being considered after mass screening, people should not let their guards down.

“For now, we can assume that the situation is under control and the risk is minimal in these yellow zones. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no risk in these areas,” she said, adding that unless an effective vaccine is acquired, people must abide by the health preventive measures.

Unlocking in  Thimphu and Paro     

Unlocking in Thimphu started from the northern mega zone that included Dechencholing, Taba, Pamtsho, Jungshina, Lanjopakha, Samtenling, Begana, Changtagang and Kabesa areas on Sunday. No positive case was picked from the 5,500 plus people who were tested in these areas.

Following similar results, the southern mega zone will also be marked yellow beginning today, after more than 5,700 people in Tsalumarphey, Tshalu Barp, Simtokha, Babesa, Serbithang, Debsi, Gangchey-Nyezergang, RTC, and Olarongchhu workshop areas tested negative to the virus yesterday.

In Paro, it was decided that Naja, Dogar, Doteng and Tsento gewogs would enter the green zone and witness similar relaxations as the 18 dzongkhags. The remaining six gewogs and Paro throm were marked yellow since Sunday.

However, Shaba-Bara under Shaba gewog, Woochu below Luni gewog office and Khangkhu school premises under Wangchang gewog will continue to be under strict surveillance for the next seven days.

Meanwhile, the health ministry conducted 365,261 tests so far since March 2020. Over 135,700 samples were tested in the last 26 days since the detection of the index case that triggered the second nationwide lockdown.

Source: Kuensel