An American tourist has tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Bhutan on the last day of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, the Bhutanese government confirmed on Friday, after three earlier tests returned a negative result. The confirmed COVID-19 patient is the partner of the first infected American national - a 76-year-old who tested positive on March 5 and was repatriated to the United States last week.
The fourth test - the one that returned a positive result - was carried out as part of a quarantine protocol in which every person gets checked before release, according to a statement from Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering's office.
Three primary contacts of the first patient - the partner, the guide and the driver - were due to finish their quarantine periods on Friday.
"While the guide and the driver confirmed negative, the partner, who is 59 years old, showed a positive result. This was the fourth test run on primary contacts since detection of the first case on March 5. Three earlier tests resulted in a negative," the statement said.
The second patient is in stable condition but is in isolation and her condition will be monitored, the Bhutanese government has said. The driver and the guide will have to be under home quarantine and report if they develop symptoms.
The American tourist and her partner had been in Assam for 10 days before they flew to Bhutan. Over 400 people had come in contact with these two tourists in that time and have been quarantined.
Of these, 160 were released after showing no symptoms, but the Assam government had tested only seven of this group, health department sources added.
The Assam government, which has closed its borders to foreigners and even restricted Indian citizens from other parts of the country, has listed five steps to outline its fight against the virus.
These steps include a staggered roster for government employees (50 per cent will work from home), strict social distancing measures and stamping of all passengers arriving in the state through any means of transport.
The government has also said it will transfer $2,000 to all Assamese stranded in foreign countries for over 30 days.
India is currently in Stage 2 of the outbreak, meaning transmission is local and can be traced. Stage 3 is community transmission, where there is exponential growth and this makes it much harder to trace and contain the spread of the virus.
Over 220 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in India, with at least four deaths linked to the virus. Worldwide the virus, which began in China's Wuhan district in December last year, has killed over 8,000 people and infected more than 2 lakh others.