As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold around the world, the importance of a multisectoral approach to address the sanitary crisis becomes more evident. In Bhutan, the sharing of expertise is at the centre of the response strategy.
The Ministry of Health has involved experts from different domains in the national Technical Advisory Group. Among them, veterinarians play a key role by sharing their expertise in epidemiology, laboratory testing, regulations, and policies.
Veterinary epidemiologists are notably contributing to the development of the National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan and the establishment of the standard operating procedures that this entails. They also work on adapting and deploying the national plan to the different districts.
The Veterinary Services share their expertise on contact tracing and quarantine measures to support the control of people movement in-and-out of the country. In the field, laboratory officers from the national Veterinary Services have been trained on diagnostic protocols for COVID-19 and have been deployed with all the necessary material to establish a new testing facility.
So far, Bhutan has been able to contain the number of human cases. The country recognises the risks and is prepared to deploy the necessary resources if the situation aggravates. Yet, the experience of Bhutan demonstrates that a truly operational One Health approach can effectively reduce the impact of the sanitary challenges, such as COVID-19.
The quick implementation of a multisectoral approach has been facilitated by preparatory activities in which Bhutan took part prior to the emergence of COVID-19.
Indeed, the country participated in 2018 in a joint workshop organised by the OIE and the World Health Organization (WHO), bringing together representatives from the human and the animal sectors. The IHR-PVS Bridging workshops, as they are called, improve communication and coordination across sectors and strategically analyse areas where joint actions to address health security risks, such as zoonoses, can be carried out.
This workshop contributed to pave the way to the collaborative and multidisciplinary approach currently undertaken by Bhutan to tackle the disease.