Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said the country has recorded over 146 COVID19 cases outside quarantine and announced that the nationwide lockdown would continue.

In his latest update on Facebook regarding the country’s Covid19 situation, Prime Minister Tshering on Sunday said: “It was last Sunday when we went into lockdown in Thimphu, and over the week, it went nationwide. Since then, over 146 COVID-19 cases outside quarantine were recorded.”

In his message to the people of the nation, the PM said: “As you know, we are now dealing with the local transmission of the coronavirus. As a medical person and knowing the infectivity of the disease, it is a wonder that we managed to delay the situation until now.”

Also read: Covid19: Paro under partial lockdown in Bhutan; escort service from Phuentshogling to Thimphu suspended

“And it is all to the credit of His Majesty’s relentless leadership and blessings of our guardian deities that fenced us from the pandemic so far. And the same forces and motivation will glide us out of the turmoil safe and strong,” he added.

Regarding the present scenario of the country, the Prime Minister said: “At this stage, I would like to share that there are reassuring immunological indicators that it is an early disease. Which means we have caught the transmission before it became widespread.”

He claimed the outbreak is contained within Thimphu and Paro, and there are no active infections beyond.

Also read: Bhutan imposes complete lockdown in Thimphu to curb COVID-19 spread

“The cases reported from other districts are close contacts and can be traced,” PM Tshering said.

“However, we are carrying out heightened vigilance all across to look for evidence of local spread in other parts of the country,” he added.

The PM said the lockdown has been announced to “intensify surveillance, trace, test and treat so that we reach a plateau from where we work towards dropping the graph of the disease effectively. As reported daily to the public, we are on track in terms of aggressive screening and testing”.

“Alongside, we are also trying to find the portals of disease entry into the country and communities, and working to seal them.”

The Bhutan PM said the priority of the government is to “protect everyone from the disease”.

He said “we have been paying special attention to sustain major economic activities so that we are assured of critical supplies”.

“Our regional taskforces and relevant agencies are working round the clock to maintain steady flow of import and export. Among others, essentials for people as well as livestock are being ensured. We are also making sure local farm productions are supported and supplied to the markets,” the PM said.

Regarding the lockdown issues, the PM said: “The lockdown in Thimphu, though sudden, helped a great deal in the containment of the disease. Had we waited any longer, thousands of people would have exited the town, possibly spreading the infection all across.”

“This left many stranded and caused huge inconveniences among our people. Subsequent inter-district movement and nationwide lockdown added more numbers. But for now, we are facilitating only emergency movements like death and critical illnesses.”

“We are also aware of the painful times where people are disallowed from attending to the terminal illness and death of their loved ones. Such suffering further exacerbated by restrictions imposed is unimaginable.”

The PM said: “We were as regretful when we could not allow certain businesses like Drayang and movie theatres to operate but it has helped limit the outbreak. Similarly, one of the biggest risk we could foresee was from the congregation at the Centenary Farmers Market.”

He informed that two vendors from CFM tested positive but reducing the gathering by almost two-third minimised the spread to a great extent.

“It is the same with the closure of schools. Had we allowed all classes, such outbreak would be uncontrollable,” the PM said.

“Despite all the limitations, we are striving to make this lockdown as bearable as possible. Should you face any issue of any sort, please don’t hesitate to call 1010,” the PM appealed to the citizens.

Regarding the unlocking process, the PM said it will take some time.

“We are often asked how long this will last, on when the unlocking processes will begin. While it will take some time, our epidemiological pattern should give us the timely confidence to initiate unlocking process,” the PM said.

“And when we do, we will adopt ‘smart’ unlocking method. Which means our unlocking has to be designed in a way that we minimise the risk of the disease,” he added.

“This is an unprecedented time. The norms to prevent the disease are all in contradiction with our way of life. The attacking agent is invisible and yet highly infectious,” the PM said.

Thanking the people of the country, the PM said “we have our people who are wise, understanding and kind. Thank you. Together, we will make this lockdown a success”.

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