… task force found risks of Covid-19 spreading

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Drivers at Sorchen, who transport essentials to other places, are pleading with authorities to reopen the restaurants that have been closed recently. There are about eight restaurants in Sorchen (on the green zone side), above the driver switching point, Phuentsholing.

Drivers say they have been affected, especially in terms of having a proper place for a meal while waiting for their vehicles to arrive at the driver switching point.

A driver, Namgay, said he is among those who have a family in Phuentsholing.

“Here, we have a roadside temporary shelter to live in,” he said. “We don’t have a proper place to eat.”

Namgay said there were about eight restaurants that catered to drivers.

“The restaurants were good eating places, even for those drivers from other dzongkhags while they waited for their vehicles,” Namgay said, adding that most of them cook on the roadsides these days. Some drivers eat at Kamji.

Namgay said that if there was a risk with drivers eating at restaurants in Sorchen, Kamji now has the same risks. “And as of now, no one has tested positive in Sorchen.”

Another driver, Karma Kuenzang, said all drivers who wait at Sorchen are facing the same problems.

“Sometimes, it is more difficult when the truck doesn’t arrive at the switching point on time. The wait is prolonged,” he said. “It has been some time now since the restaurants were closed.”

Drivers also say restarting the escort system between Sorchen and Phuentsholing, where a driver can go to Phuentsholing and stay in containment or holding rooms before returning, would be helpful. A GPS system that would track the vehicles is another option, they said.

At present, drivers wait on the green side of Sorchen, above the driver switching point.

Although non-operational, some of the restaurant owners are still in their huts in Sorchen.

A restaurant owner, Chencho, said it has been about two weeks since he closed his restaurant.

“I have been living here with my wife and child for more than a year now,” he said. “It is going to be difficult to shift to another place at this time.”

Chencho said he lived in Gaiguri, Phuentsholing, before he opened a restaurant to cater to drivers.

“I would like to request that the authorities allow us to stay here. Of course, it would be good to operate the restaurant. Drivers keep calling us for meals,” he said.

Another restaurant owner, Sangay Wangmo, who lives with her husband, said she cannot return to Phuentsholing as Omicron cases are increasing.

“My relatives have also tested positive,” she said. “What will we do for a living in Phuentsholing?”

Sangay Wangmo said they have appealed in writing to the authorities, claiming that there was no response.


What happened?

On February 7, the Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC-19TF) asked the Gedu Covid-19 Task Force (GC019TF) to suspend the operation of restaurants until the Covid-19 situation improves.

However, the decision was made only after the SC-19TF reviewed an assessment report prepared by the GC-19TF.

The SC-19TF asked people in this area to be immediately relocated to their residences. The task force also asked the GC019TF to explore and facilitate takeaways for drivers to minimise the risk of Covid-19.

Kuensel was unable to get the details about the assessment report. However, it was learned from sources that the area is highly risky of Covid-19 transmission. It has also been alleged that drivers mixed with each other, crowded in some areas, and some were found gambling and compromising the safety protocols.