Bhutan reports first cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

Bhutan has reported its first 14 cases of Omicron coronavirus variant, a health official said on Friday, amid a surge of the pandemic in the Himalayan kingdom that has so far been relatively successful at keeping the disease at bay.

Sonam Wangchuk, chief of the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC), said all cases were samples collected from quarantine facilities where travellers from abroad stay.

“We have not detected any case of Omicron in the community yet,” Wangchuk told Reuters from Thimphu.

The nation of about 750,000 people has vaccinated more than 93% of people aged over 12 with a second vaccine dose and provided booster shots to more than 98% of the priority group – frontline workers, people with medical conditions and elderly people, officials said.

Nestled between China and India, Bhutan has been able to slow the spread of the virus through measures such as early screening and monitoring at entry points, testing and sealing its borders, most of which are still in force.

Bhutan has announced just three deaths linked to COVID-19 and 2,873 infections since the pandemic started.