Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

The Eastern Covid-19 Task Force (EC-19TF) in Dewathang implemented the third phase of unlocking in Samdrupjongkhar thromde and Dewathang Throm from yesterday.

Health surveillance teams conducted random mass testing in the green zones and daily symptomatic and cluster testing of the red buildings before unlocking the third phase.

The second phase of unlocking in the thromde began on March 6.

According to the EC-19TF’s notification, issued yesterday, because of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, uninfected individuals would remain susceptible and must abide by the appropriate Covid-19 protocols.

The notification stated that irrespective of relaxation, it is the responsibility of every individual to protect the vulnerable population and unvaccinated children until they receive the booster dose.

Inter-zone movement (no vehicle) shall be allowed without restrictions until 6pm, and the movement of taxis allowed between the zones with 50 percent capacity but the full capacity for the same family and friends. Shops and automobile workshops not identified as red building or cluster can also open.

Saloons can operate with strict Covid-19 protocols and restaurants shall be allowed to open for takeaway only. Financial institutions can open with 50 percent capacity for both staff and customers.

“The identified staff from the government, corporation and private offices can go to the offices with the RT-PCR negative; others can continue to work from home protocol announced by the Royal Civil Service Commission,” the notification stated.

The movement of private vehicles, children below 12 years and older people are discouraged.  Indoor and outdoor games and sports, and bars and entertainment centres are not permitted.

Red clusters, colonies and buildings would continue to follow the existing protocol, and the general public should refrain from visiting the vicinity of red buildings.

The EC-19TF imposed a lockdown in the thromde on January 20 after detecting the Covid-19 positive case from the community on January 19. More than 1,500 Covid-19 positive cases have been reported in Samdrupjongkhar since January 1.

Residents said their livelihoods were affected as their businesses were shut down for more than two months.

“Without working and with zero cash inflow, how can I pay my staff and rent for the apartment and shop,” one of the businessmen said.

Residents said the authorities should relax the lockdown completely instead of phase-wise as lockdowns had been not effective in containing the virus.

“What is the use of saving lives when our livelihood is already shattered and deprived. The small businesses and private employees are  affected severely during the lockdown,” a shopkeeper said.