American tests positive for coronavirus in Bhutan, 8 fellow Indian passengers quarantined

The Bhutan Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Friday morning announced that a 76-year-old American tourist who entered the country from India has tested positive for the deadly novel coronavirus in the country’s first reported case since the outbreak in China. The PMO made the announcement on its social media page on Facebook and Twitter.

Bhutan Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering also addressed the nation at 9 am. It was telecast live.

The PMO said that eight Indian passengers who travelled with the American on the same plane from Guwahati to Paro have been quarantined.

As a precautionary measure, the Himalayan country has imposed restriction on movement of tourists into the country for two weeks. The PMO said that the affected American, who had been kept in isolation and was on “oxygen support”, came into close contact with at least 90 people and efforts were on to trace them.

In a long press release posted on the Bhutan Prime Minister’s Facebook page, the government said, “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.”

“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,” the statement said.

It further said that the tourist complained of “bloaty abdomen and nausea” when he reached Thimpu and went to a hospital. “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 3.30 pm for stomach upset and diarrhoea. 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,” the statement said.

The tourist went to the hospital again on Thursday and tests confirmed the infection. “Upon confirmation, he has been isolated in the Covid-19 hospital. Considering his age and underlying conditions, the patient is on oxygen support.

At the time of the press release, over 90 contacts have been traced. Health officials and other relevant agencies are in the process of carrying out primary disease management and contact tracing,” the statement said.

The eight Indian passengers have also been quarantined. The government is closely working with the Indian Embassy, said the statement.

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