Update on Covid-19: Is Bhutan safe?

Posted on 28/February/2020

Updated on 30/March/2020

As of Mar 30, 2020, Bhutan has 4 confirmed Covid-19 cases. The Kingdom has since placed all associated people under quarantine, and activated national preparedness measures (see below) to continue a close watch on the evolving situation. The below remains mandatory for all tourists and Bhutanese arriving into Bhutan

  • Travellers with travel history to China are requested to report to the health desk at point of entry
  • Travellers with one or more of the following symptoms with travel history to China and affected countries within 14 days are requested to report to the nearest health centers or call 112
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Shortness of breath

MAR 29

  • Tests continue in the Kingdom. Of 58 performed at the Royal Center for Disease Control at Thimphu yesterday, Mar 28, one returns positive. Infected individual is a student who was in quarantine; the case has been isolated and all possible contacts in a quarantine facility. This takes the number of positive cases in Bhutan, to four.

MAR 27

  • Prime Minister's Office - PMO, Bhutan issues press release on restrictions for:
    • Public gatherings
    • Travel (non-essential and leisure travels, public transport locally)
    • Business and entertainment
    • Games and sports
    • Workers in civil service, corporate, private sectors, and other agencies to follow 'work from home' system

MAR 26

  • Tests continue in the Kingdom. Of 25 performed in Thimphu and Phuentsholing yesterday, Mar 25, one returns positive. Infected individual is an imported case; immediate contact tracing procedures carried out. This takes the number of positive cases in Bhutan, to three.

MAR 23

  • Starting 6am, Mar 23, 2020, Bhutan closes its international borders.
  • No locals are allowed out of the Kingdom.
  • For non-Bhutanese, exits are allowed. Incoming non-Bhutanese will be scrutinised and quarantined where applicable.

MAR 20

  • The partner of the first Covid-19 case tests positive. Results are informed at a press briefing today. Their guides and driver's tests remain negative, but their quarantines are sustained at the quarantine facility in Mothithang. Both are doing well. This takes the number of positive cases in Bhutan, to two.

MAR 18

  • Prime Minister's Office - PMO, Bhutan's Facebook page updates: Restriction on incoming tourists sustained until further notice. "While the situation back home is under control, the global trend of coronavirus is not encouraging for us to lift the ban."
  • Temporary closure of drayangs, nightclubs, discotheques and other joints where huge crowds may gather.

MAR 15

  • Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering joins India's Prime Minister, in a video conference to discuss and coordinate in tackling COVID-19 outbreak in the region.
  • PM Tshering also sits with representatives country’s holding and investment arm, the Druk Holding and Investments (DHI), in discussing ways to take Bhutan's economy forward and running. “If we don’t have a clear strategy, we will not be able to make the best use of our resources under this thick cloud of coronavirus,” prime minister said. “Let us work closely so that when the cloud clears, our nation stands benefitted.”

MAR 11

  • Prime Minister's Office - PMO, Bhutan's Facebook page updates: The Kingdom is in the 'Orange' zone.

MAR 8

  • The Prime Minister and teams at the health ministry discuss intensifying preparedness should the Covid-19 situation worsen. 34 samples picked up through health surveillance today are confirmed to be negative.

MAR 6 to 20

  • The government imposes a two weeks restriction on all incoming tourists until Mar 20, 2020.

MAR 6

  • The Prime Minister's Office - PMO, Bhutan announces first Covid-19 case in Bhutan, confirmed 11pm on Mar 5. Results were validated on Mar 6.
  • Contact tracing of the 76-year-old patient from the US was immediately set in place, covering his itinerary including places visited and people he had associated with. The PMO indicates that the traveller's partner, driver and guide are asymptomatic for now, but are quarantined. All 8 Indian nationals on his flight from Guwahati are also quarantined.
  • Service staff on the flight, hotel staff associated with the traveller's accommodations have been put on home quarantine, until all checks are cleared.

FEB 5

  • Bhutan holds second press briefing on Covid-19 at the Ministry on Health.

JAN 29

  • Bhutan’s leaders hold their 3rd internal coordination meeting.
  • Bhutan holds first press briefing on Covid-19 at the Ministry on Health.

JAN 27

  • Bhutan’s leaders hold their 2nd internal coordination meeting.

JAN 22

  • Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) increases surveillance at their Outpatient department, and Emergency department.
  • Apart from mandatory health checks on all passengers arriving from China at Paro International Airport, Immigrations initiated a separate line listing of Chinese passport holders – where authorities collected information of travellers’ contact in Bhutan.

JAN 21

  • Bhutan’s leaders hold their 1st internal coordination meeting.

JAN 17

  • Starting today, all in-flight announcements on board Drukair and Bhutan Airlines have included a section asking passengers to notify crew should there be any one who’s unwell, or with travel history to affected areas. These passengers are duly informed to report to the airport’s health unit for thorough screenings and investigation.

JAN 15

  • Bhutanese leaders issues cautionary notifications to the public and health centers.
  • Paro International Airport installs infrared fever scanners, steps up surveillance measures.


NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS: WHAT BHUTAN'S DOING

Bhutan takes her citizens’ safety, as well as that of all travellers entering the Kingdom, of utmost importance. As such, The Ministry of Health, Bhutan has enforced a detailed list of actions to enhance the preparedness of the Kingdom against the Covid-19 outbreak.

AIRPORT

  • Paro International Airport has stepped up surveillance measures. Infrared fever scanners have been put in place since Jan 15, 2020.
  • Since Jan 17, 2020, in-flight announcements on board Drukair and Bhutan Airlines have included a section asking passengers to notify crew should there be any one who’s unwell, or with travel history to affected areas. These passengers are duly informed to report to the airport’s health unit for thorough screenings and investigation.
  • On Jan 22, 2020, apart from implementing health checks on all passengers arriving from China at Paro International Airport, Immigrations initiated a separate line listing of Chinese passport holders – where authorities collected information of travellers’ contact in Bhutan.

GOVERNMENT MEETINGS

  • Bhutan’s leaders held the 1st internal coordination meeting on Jan 21, 2020 to discuss national preparedness plans and response planning for Covid-19.
  • The 2nd internal coordination meeting was held on Jan 27, 2020.
  • The 3rd internal coordination meeting was held on Jan 29, 2020.

LABORATORIES & MEDICAL PERSONNEL

  • All health centers are currently following strict instructions to step-up on surveillance. Also, a reporting system was established with Bhutan’s Royal Center for Disease Control (RCDC) to facilitate reportings.
  • RCDC has readied their BSL 3 lab to handle the Covid-19.
  • Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) has set aside patient isolation rooms, medical team and critical units on standby should the need arise.
  • Surveillance has also been increased at JDWNRH’s Outpatient department, and Emergency department since Jan 22, 2020.

MOVING ABOUT IN BHUTAN

  • All health facilities at points of entry into Bhutan (Gelephu, Paro, Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar and Samtse) have readied isolation rooms, stepped up infection control measures, as well as placed personnel on standby for the triaging of patients.

TRANSPARENCY

  • When news of the Covid-19 emerged in January, Bhutanese leaders acted swift to issue cautionary notifications to the public and health centers on Jan 15, 2020.
  • The public is consistently updated through Bhutan Broadcasting Service announcements, TV talk shows, radio programmes, as well as various social media
  • To date, two press briefings have been held on Covid-19 at the Ministry on Health. The first was on Jan 29, and the other on Feb 5, 2020.

 

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