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First confirmed COVID-19 case in Bhutan; US national went Bhutan from Guwahati

PMO office Bhutan confirmed through a press release about a positive case of COVID-19, confirmed at 11pm on March 5. The result was validated at 12.30 am today.

The patient is a 76-year-old from the United States of America, who had come to Bhutan as a tourist. He had entered the country from Paro International Airport, after embarking Drukair flight KB241 from Guwahati, India on March 2.

Adhering to the National Preparedness and Response Plan, and the operating procedures in place, all follow-up actions were initiated immediately. His Majesty The King personally oversaw implementation of the response strategy, as teams operated from Ministry of Health all through the night.

The patient was touring India from February 21 to March 1. He had started his travel from Washington DC on February 18. The patient was travelling with his partner, aged 59. There were 10 passengers on board, of which eight others were Indian nationals.

At the Paro International Airport, the patient’s health declaration form was assessed. He had indicated “negative” against all conditions. He did not have a sign of fever.

However, upon reaching Thimphu, around 3pm, he visited the medical OPD at JDWNRH, complaining of bloaty abdomen (dyspeptic symptoms) and nausea. The patient suffers from chronic hypertension and is on medication. However, even at that time, he did not have any flu symptoms.

The patient and his partner stayed at Le Meridien on the first night. The following day, he stayed indoor most of the time and went to the hospital again around 3.30pm for stomach upset and diarrhea.

The next day, he travelled to Punakha, with two stops on the way for tea and lunch. He had stayed at Densa Boutique Resort. That evening, he had walked until the Bazam next to Punakha Dzong, and returned to the room.

Yesterday, upon returning to Thimphu, he visited JDWNRH again. He was found to have fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath. He was kept under observation at the flu clinic (designated COVID-19 hospital) and samples were collected and sent to Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC).

Upon confirmation, he has been isolated in the COVID-19 hospital. Considering his age and underlying conditions, the patient is on oxygen support.

Temporary restriction of tourist

The government will impose two weeks restriction on all incoming tourists with immediate effect. This is to enable rigorous monitoring, source assessment of infection and mitigate the situation. In addition, all international conferences and seminars to be held in the country in the two weeks are also postponed.

The government will assess the situation after two weeks and accordingly decide on the restrictions.

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