Bhutan PM mourns country’s fourth Covid death: ‘Bitter reminder we need to do more’

Dr Lotay Tshering says the rare Covid death felt like ‘a bullet-hit’

<p>File: Bhutan PM condoled the country’s rare, fourth Covid death in an open letter shared on Facebook </p>

File: Bhutan PM condoled the country’s rare, fourth Covid death in an open letter shared on Facebook

Bhutan’s prime minster Lotay Tshering has mourned the country’s fourth Covid-19 fatality as a “bitter reminder we need to do more”.

In an open letter shared on Facebook on Saturday, Dr Tshering said it felt like “a bullet-hit to learn that one more precious life” had been lost because of the ongoing pandemic.

The victim was a 34-year-old woman who died on Friday in national capital Thimphu due to cardiac complications from an underlying kidney disease, according to a statement from the country’s health ministry.

Officials believe her condition may have been exacerbated by Covid.

A chronic kidney patient, the woman was receiving dialysis treatment in the city, after being transferred from Phuentsholing town.

“I grieved with the nation and continue to offer my prayers for our dear friend,” Dr Tshering wrote on Saturday.

Bhutan, with a population of around 800,000, has done exceedingly well in reigning in the Covid pandemic, compared to other countries, including its neighbours India and China.

The prime minister underlined how the country’s “measuring yards” were set apart from the ones factored in by other countries.

“In other countries, the success rate is measured by the decreasing number of hospital admission, those on ventilation and the number of deaths,” Dr Tshering wrote.

“Our motivation is to eliminate the disease because we cannot afford to lose our people to something that is preventable,” he added.

“His Majesty [the country’s Druk Gyalpo or “Dragon King” Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck] has set high standards for us.”

The land-locked nation is among a handful of countries to have reported the fewest Covid-related deaths in the world. It had reported its first fatality in January 2021, nearly a year after the pandemic hit in March 2020.

In his letter, Dr Tshering, a practicing surgeon, outlined Bhutan’s Covid preparedness, including “ensuring booster doses for everyone”, carrying out mass testing across 14 districts and “going all out to procure paediatric vaccines” for the country’s children.

Friday’s death came on the same day the country reported 205 new Covid cases – its highest single-day spike since the pandemic hit.

Bhutan has reported fewer than 5,000 Covid cases in total.

In sharp contrast, neighbour India has 41 million confirmed Covid cases since March 2020 while China has consistently tried to reign in Covid outbreaks through severe measures including restricting the movements of its citizens and putting entire cities under strict lockdown.

Dr Tshering said Bhutan was committed to ensuring the disease was completely eliminated and the nation could not afford “to lose our people to something that is preventable”.

He also urged the “more than 8,500 individuals above 12 years who have not come forward to take the vaccines” to do so as they would be the most at risk from the disease.

“Please don’t wait because we have the opportunity to reduce risks of Covid-19 today.”

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