Kelzang Wangchuk, | Samdrupjongkhar

A woman, who was released after completing the quarantine in Samdrupjongkhar on January 23, was brought back from Tshelingor to be quarantined again. She had tested positive for Covid-19.

Tshelingor is the border between Samdrupjongkhar, a red zone, and green dzongkhags Trashigang and Pemagatshel.

De-suups on quarantine duty released the travellers who had completed a week-long quarantine period on January 23.

The 40-year-old woman’s husband said the de-suups on duty released them around 10:30am, after they got the travel permit, saying that they were allowed to travel as they did not test positive.

He said he got a call from the de-suup when he reached Dewathang and they told him to stop because their RT-PCR results were still not confirmed. He went to Tshelingor and waited there, as it was hot at Dewathang.

He said that he was shocked when they told him that his wife had tested positive. They were travelling to Wamrong in Trashigang after attending the funeral of a relative at Jomotshangkha in Samdrupjongkhar.

“Why were we released, and how did the control room issue the travel permit stating we tested negative before it was confirmed?” the husband asked.

Others in the group said they waited for more than five hours at Tshelingor without food and they could not even go to the toilet. “Who should be held accountable for these lapses? It indicates poor coordination among the concerned authorities,” one of the passengers, Tshering, said.

A de-suup on quarantine duty, Sangay Dolma, said that usually, they release the travellers if they do not get information about their tests at 6am as per the briefing they were given. If the information is not shared by 6am, those on duty consider the results to be negative.

“I didn’t get information about their results at 6am on that day.”

She said that since the travellers in other quarantine facilities were released, she released those in her facility at around 10:30am. The travellers were also given the travel permit from the control room stating that they were allowed to travel, having they tested negative.

“We were not informed about the new system that has been implemented. I called the clients and told them to stop and stay inside the car as soon as I received the information. As per the briefing we got, I issued the medical certificate,” Sangay Dolma said.

Samdrupjongkhar Dzongdag and the dzongkhag’s Covid-19 incident commander, Tharchin Lhendup, said that a letter issued by the control room was the road permit and should be accompanied by a medical certificate given by the health focal of the quarantine for a person to travel.

“Although there seem to be severe lapses, the patient who was travelling in their private car was caught before entering the low-risk area,” the dzongdag said, adding that they acted immediately and stopped them at the Tshelingor checkpoint.

He said this was possible due to the constant and immediate follow up carried out. No one came into contact with the woman who tested positive, the dzongdag said.

Those on the bus were released only at 4pm after confirming the test results and thorough risk assessments, but the health team directed the passengers to be quarantined for about three days in Mongar. “It is safe so far, and we have already acted upon it so that such mistakes won’t be repeated.”