… residents raise concerns about those in containment 

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC19TF) late night yesterday issued a notification stating that the 24-hour blackout in Phuentsholing ends at 9am today.

The task force said that the relaxations and restrictions announced in the unlocking notification issued on August 9 will continue.

However, the task force stated that the 11 people who tested positive from the Medical Supply Depot (MSD) have visited several places including shops and offices in the past few days after unlocking.

“While the positive cases have been isolated and 84 primary contacts have been traced and put in quarantine, the possibility of transmission to other people cannot be completely ruled out,” the notification stated.

The task force will continue to trace and test all suspected individuals and carry out heightened surveillance and monitoring. “People residing in and operating business from the places visited by the positive cases shall be tested as per health surveillance and testing protocol.”

The SC19TF reminded and cautioned the public of the fast-evolving situation and the continued risk of community transmission, and urged everyone to diligently follow all Covid-19 safety protocols such as wearing face masks, washing hands with soap regularly (or using hand sanitisers) and maintaining physical distance.

“Unless highly inevitable, it is advised that residents stay home and avoid crowded places and unnecessary interactions with people outside your family,” the task force notification stated.

Meanwhile, all individuals with Covid-19 symptoms are urged to visit the nearest flu clinic immediately and get tested to prevent further spread of the virus.

The task force has asked all heads of government agencies, corporations and private business entities to take full responsibility to ensure that all necessary Covid-19 safety measures and facilities are in place in their respective organisations for the safety of their staff, customers and visitors. “The respective heads of agencies shall be held fully accountable for non-compliance,” the task force said.

Residents concerned 

Relaxation in Phuentsholing was short-lived. After three days, authorities placed it under a 24-hour blackout period yesterday.

Movement of people and vehicles rwas stopped completely. All offices and businesses, including import-export, were closed until further notice.

Many residents said what happened at the MSD, a place operating under self-containment mode, was preventable. Residents are asking for accountability.

Residents are more frustrated with the fact that the positive cases were detected from a health premise under self-containment.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said: “To me it is not about health or non health entity, we have one protocol in the country and everyone must follow that without any exception.”

Authorities announced “staff and family members have visited places and shops in the town for essential shopping after unlocking Phuentsholing on August 10,” which indicates lapses.

A businessman said that the recent mass screening of Mega Zone 2 didn’t see any positive cases.

He said that it was difficult to understand why Phuentsholing reported cases, when other places with the same risk factors, such as Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, and Nganglam didn’t see repeated cases.

Residents in Phuentsholing are also saying there is a need to revisit the self-containment protocols.

About 10 days ago, even before the relaxation was announced, a building was marked red after a woman staying in it tested positive.

Kuensel learned that she tested positive after she went to work at a self-contained hotel. The hotel belonged to the shop owner for whom she worked as a sales girl prior to the lockdown. The hotelier had called her as she was staying idle without a job.

The hotel functioned as a private self-containment area. It had Druk Petroleum tanker drivers and a few more staff from a private store.

According to sources, the tanker drivers were self-contained on a voluntary basis so that the risk of transmission of letting the drivers go home was removed.They suspect a lapse in protocol could have caused the transmission.

The woman came to work in the morning and returned home. She tested positive and the entire building she lived in turned red. At the hotel, a tanker driver also tested positive.

As the SC19TF announced the relaxation on August 9, a 34-year-old man tested positive from a flu clinic that evening. He lived with 12 co-workers in a hotel. The building, which was in a self-containment mode was cordoned off and relaxations went as planned on August 10.

SC19TF said as long as cases are detected early, isolated and contacts are identified rapidly and quarantined, exposure of the larger community should be minimal. A limited cluster or building level lockdowns would be imposed.

However, if a large-scale community transmission is suspected, particularly within unvaccinated population, lockdown of the Phuentsholing thromde might be necessary, the task force had said earlier.

Edited by Tshering Palden