Bhutan, a small country bordering China and India, has seen only one death from covid-19 since the pandemic began.
Little Bhutan proved to be big in the battle that the world is fighting against covid-19: the country, which borders China and India, is an example of success thanks to the prevention campaign carried out by the Government since January 2020 and the cooperation and solidarity of the population.
On January 7, a 34-year-old citizen, admitted to a hospital in Timbu with liver and kidney problems, died of complications related to covid-19. Almost a year since the start of the pandemic, this is the one and only death derived from the disease registered by the country, CNN.
When the new coronavirus started to ride on the Asian continent, Bhutan had all the characteristics of a perfect storm – starting with the fact that it had only 337 doctors for a population of 760,000 people, with only half of these doctors having advanced training for intensive care. In addition, the country only had a PCR machine to be able to test analyzes of the virus.
In a first phase, the key to Bhutan’s success was linked to the speed of the reaction to the first warnings from neighboring China, wrote journalist Madeline Drexler in the magazine The Atlantic.
Just 11 days after China first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) an “outbreak of pneumonia of unknown origin”, Bhutan started preparing its national response plan and on January 15 it was already imposing a measurement of fever at its four airports.
A intense prevention campaign allowed Bhutan to register its first case of covid-19 only on 6 March 2020. In the 6 hours following confirmation of the first infection, more than 300 possible contacts of the infected person were identified and quarantined, according to Eyesight.
The Government of Bhutan has begun to make clear and periodic statements to the country; schools were closed – as were gyms, cinemas and public institutions -; tourists’ views were banned and working hours were relaxed. Five days after WHO declared covid-19 a pandemic, on March 16, Bhutan instituted a mandatory quarantine for all citizens with possible exposure to the virus.
Positive cases were isolated, including asymptomatic ones, in order to treat symptoms immediately and ensure psychological follow-up for quarantined patients.
The participation and cooperation of the population itself was essential for Bhutan’s success in the face of the pandemic. As one hand washes the other, the Government ensured that the economic impact on the population was supported through a financial assistance program, with the distribution of 15 million euros to more than 34 thousand citizens.
Bhutan has been one of the most effective countries in combating the pandemic. The guidance of the monarchs, the joint effort of the different parliamentary political forces, the strong investment in the prevention of covid-19 and the population ready to abide by public health rules thanks were the key to success.
Liliana Malainho, ZAP //