Easing the lockdown with mega zones 

Unlocking in the south mega zone begins today

Yangchen C Rinzin

With more than 5,785 samples cleared of Covid-19, South mega zone in Thimphu Thromde is declared a yellow zone. The relaxation of lockdown in the zone will begin from today.

The South mega zone includes Tsalumarphey, Tshalu Barp, Semtokha, Babesa, Serbithang, Debsi, Gangchey- Nyezergang, and RTC. The boundary for South mega zone starts from Olarongchhu workshop in the north until STCBL fuel station in the south.

North mega zone, which was also declared yellow zone began relaxation yesterday after more than 5,000 individuals’ test results came negative.

The North mega zone include Dechencholing, Taba, Jungshina, Langjophaka, Hejo, Pamtsho, Samtenling, Begana, Changtagang, and Kabesa.

Residents in these two zones are allowed to move within the mega zone without the movement cards but on foot between 5am and 5pm.

Only essential shops including pharmacy would be allowed to operate. While driving is restricted, people can jog, walk, and go for cycling within the mega zone.

To make the unlocking process efficient and quicker, zoning task force and technical advisory group (TAG) drew up mega zone to unlock Thimphu in zone-wise.

A member of the zoning task force, Karma Yonten said that teams decided to look into different strategies to ensure one zone is completely sealed from another zone when relaxation starts.

He is also the Head of the Office of Performance Management under His Majesty’s Secretariat.

He said that was when the idea of mega zone came up, which is a combination of 15 super zones with separate and distinct boundaries that could be easily sealed.

For instance, if there is a case in Changzamtog, lockdown will be only in the mega zone where Changzamtog falls and the rest of mega zones would remain open.

The four mega zones are North, South, Central 1 (C-1), and Central 2 (C-2).

The C-1 zone covers Zilukha, Motithang, Changangkha, Norzin Wog, Norzin Tag, and Yangchenphu area. The C-2 includes Changzamtog, Changbangdu, and Lungtenphu super zones.

Karma Yonten said that the situation was different this time with cases emerging from different zones. The zoning system, he said, worked and residents were able to access essentials after three days of lockdown.

“But the way cases were emerging, whole Thimphu had to be locked even when there was one case from one area and unlocking strategy was becoming challenging,” he said. “Then we decided to divide Thimphu into four different mega zones that would allow us to differentiate amongst different areas.”

Karma Yonten said that the situation demanded a new strategy of unlocking Thimphu.

After realising it would be difficult to have all super zones turn into green zones at the same time to unlock all zones the team decided to strategise to transit each zone at a time. Then subsequently unlock and seal the boundary of each mega zone.

“This allowed us to implement unlocking phase-wise in each mega zone quicker like North and South that are yellow zone now,” Karma Yonten said. “Mass testing was also implemented based on mega zone.

However, the status of red buildings would remain the same and residents of the building cannot move out until health ministry declares it safe even if they are in a yellow zone.

“In case if there is a positive from one building in one mega zone, the building would be declared red building but it will not impact the whole mega zone,” Karma Yonten said. “We can have a yellow zone with red zone in a few pockets of the area.”

Another round of random testing is likely after a week in all four mega zones to transit to green zones.

Meanwhile, the sample collection in C-1 and C-2 mega zones will complete today, and subsequent unlocking will take place depending on the results.

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