The first confirmed case of Covid-19 was detected in Bhutan on March 5, 2020. The case was an imported case by a US citizen who has travelled to India prior to arriving in Bhutan. The government has since imposed a two weeks restriction on all incoming tourists until March 20, 2020. The government has been keeping tab and is closely monitoring the situation while providing updates on the travel restrictions and advisory.
They have also promptly 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:
- Upon touch down at Paro International Airport, all travellers are required to declare their travel history and if they have one or more of the following symptoms
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- 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 symptoms with travel history to China and affected countries within 14 days are requested to report to the nearest health centers or call 112
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- On Mar 3, 2020, National Disaster Management Authority, chaired by the prime minister, met to review country’s efforts for COVID-19 prevention and other response mechanisms
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.
- 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.
- Since the detection of the first confirmed case in Bhutan, the government has been sharing regular updates to keep the citizens informed on the progress, situation and measurements that has been put in place.