Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

A month since the latest lockdown started in Phuentsholing, Covid-19 positive cases continue to emerge from the community.

A loader from the Mini Dry Port (MDP) tested positive yesterday. Although the case is categorised as detected from the flu-clinic, all activities at the MDP were suspended for the day.

According to sources, the MDP loader had gone to the hospital after getting injured at work. As per the protocol, one has to test for antigen at the flu-clinic before entering the hospital. The loader tested positive on the antigen and later on RT-PCR.

Just on May 15, before the MDP loader tested positive, a woman, who runs a canteen at Sorchen had also tested positive.

After she tested positive, the drivers operating between the MDP and Sorchen were tested. The health ministry called on all drivers who visited the canteen from May 7 onwards to test. Samples of more than 200 drivers were taken and three of them tested positive yesterday.

While MDP loaders work in a containment zone, the three drivers who tested positive returned home after work, which means these were community transmission. The three areas where the drivers live have been cordoned off yesterday.

Meanwhile, residents said it is critical to know how the MDP loader, the canteen owner or the three drivers got infected—and if their cases are connected.

As per the protocol, drivers from Thimphu or other low-risk areas drive until Sorchen, where they stay in a green zone area. The drivers from Phuentsholing then drive the vehicle to MDP for transshipment and loading. At MDP, they stay in a safe area without mingling with anyone from the MDP.

The loaded trucks are taken to Sorchen and handed over to previous drivers under strict protocols.

The Sorchen canteen lies under high-risk and Thimphu drivers are not allowed to enter.

The question of whether the drivers need to stay in containment mode or not resurfaced. Residents earlier expressed concern as the drivers returned home after work.

The MDP drivers testing positive yesterday was not the first case. On May 9, three drivers transporting goods to Sorchen from MDP tested positive.

In a similar fashion, a kitchen staff working in facility quarantine (a hotel) at the heart of the town under Core 4 zone had also tested positive on May 11. It was learned that after the individual’s sample was taken at the restaurant, the staff returned home as usual.

The next day, her result came positive. Two buildings where the kitchen staff and the hotel owner live were cordoned off immediately.

A tenant from one of the buildings said the problem came because the quarantine facility worker came home.

“But in this case the authorities making, implementing, and monitoring the SoPs and protocols were equally responsible,” he said.

Despite there is no sign of the cases decreasing, many are keeping their fingers crossed that no more community transmission comes henceforth. A mass screening begins tomorrow.

A resident Melam said given the positive cases from the community emerging the movement of individuals within their zones should be stopped immediately.

“And the home delivery system must be started,” he said. “If the movement within zones continues, the virus will keep on spreading and we’ll keep on suffering due to prolonged lockdown.”

With the current rate of community transmission, Melam said he is doubtful if the outbreak would be contained even by June.

Another resident, Singye Wangdi who lives in Toorsa temporary settlement said it was frustrating staying home for so long.

“We cannot go anywhere. All we do is eat and sleep,” he said, adding his savings in the bank is exhausting by the day.

As of yesterday, more than 150 total positive cases have been reported in Phuentsholing, since April 16.

On May 14, a woman tested positive for the second time. She had tested positive earlier, then completed the 21-day quarantine and was sent home. It is unclear how she tested positive again.