Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

After all restrictions in the town were lifted completely on August 10, every day about 600 people are tested for Covid-19 in Phuentsholing as part of the active surveillance.

Except for the positive cases reported on August 12 from the medical supply depot (MSD), there were no positive cases from the community in Phuentsholing to date. There have even been many days with no cases at all. However, no one knows if the town is free of the virus.

Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC19TF) is gearing towards maintaining a zero community case in Phuentsholing through a multi-sectoral approach and community engagement.

A five-day sensitisation and advocacy on Covid-19 safety protocols for front liners for de-suups began on August 31. The programme has been planned for three batches of desuups and three batches of RBP personnel.

Talking to the de-suups, the task force chairman and economic affairs secretary Karma Tshering said that they were testing more than 500 people from the community every day.

“But this doesn’t guarantee there are no positive cases in the community. Nobody knows. There could be positive cases in the community but whether they will infect us or not—nobody knows.”

As per health experts, the chairman said that the biggest challenge is that the disease’s behaviour is “very unique” and some patients don’t even show symptoms.

According to sources, the 39-year-old positive case, who was tested positive after travelling to Thimphu (in quarantine), was tested RT-PCR negative on August 21. He may have developed mild symptoms after August 21. He left Phuentsholing on August 22. Another, a 14-year-old boy, who tested positive in quarantine in Thimphu also tested positive on the 14th day of his quarantine, according to the source.

Task force chairman Karma Tshering said the government, or the national task force, the SC19TF, other local task forces, and the business community alone cannot fight and win the battle against the virus. 

“We have to act collectively.”

The chairman told the de-suups to help in bringing the community on board in taking ownership of their own safety and that of the town.

“Ask them to go to the flu clinic immediately if they develop any flu-like symptoms,” he said.

The chairman also said major trading activities are happening in Phuentsholing with the movement of hundreds of vehicles every day. People must behave and act now when the community is still clean and not after somebody is tested positive.

“Risk is always there. As long as we are able to defend here, all other places will be safe,” he said.

“Even if the community is clean right now, the situation could change in just an hour.”

Commending the de-suups’ contribution when the nation needed them the most, SC19TF chairman Karma Tshering reminded them that protecting themselves is the first task. 

“If you don’t have good masks, just let me know.”

Meanwhile, prior to the five days’ sensitisation programme, the SC19TF together with Incident Management Team and heath staff met with the public in different groups for sensitisation.

“People also realised that unless we fight together we cannot defeat this virus,” Karma Tshering said.

Although many people have moved to other places for personal reasons, more than 22,000 people are estimated to reside in the town. With the recent relaxations that allowed opening business entities until 9pm, the challenges are even more.

The task force chairman said that their aim was to not have a lockdown again. A smart lockdown has also been planned accordingly in case of community infection.

Edited by Tshering Palden