Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Wearing facemasks has been made mandatory in Phuentsholing.

The Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC19TF) announced this on July 28.

The task force said that an increasing number of Covid-19 positive cases are being reported from foreign workers and Bhutanese returnees. Positive cases have also been detected from the community. SC19TF also pointed out that there was an increasing threat of monkeypox as cases in the neighbouring countries.

On July 28, a total of 10 positive cases were reported in Phuentsholing out of 189 samples collected. Since all the Covid-19 related protocols were done away with on April 4 this year, a total of 11,340 foreign workers have been put into quarantine facilities.

Pema, a resident, said that wearing masks in the heat was troublesome.

“I don’t feel like wearing them. Considering the Covid-19 threat, wearing masks is for our own good but there are not so many cases. So I think it’s okay not to wear a mask.”

A shopkeeper, Dilraj Biswa, said: “Not even five percent of people are wearing masks. The sales have dropped. Although the notification has been there, I think not many know it’s compulsory.”

He said that he sold about 10 face masks yesterday. He used to sell at least 20 pieces a day.

A transporter, who travels regularly between Thimphu and Phuentsholing, Ngawang Tenzin, said most Phuentsholing residents don’t wear masks.

“They are probably thinking the Covid-19 virus is gone,” he said. “But people are still getting infected.”

Ngawang said face masks are the best safety measure available.

Most people in the town said that they had to go through many difficulties during the peak of the pandemic because of the prolonged restrictions as Phuentsholing town is a cross border town. They also point out that making masks compulsory at this time is pointless as people have been moving everywhere freely without masks for the last two months already.

“The virus must have infected every household; many people are complaining of sore throats and runny noses these days. It could also be due to the monsoon,” one resident said.

De-suups and Royal Bhutan Police conducted an awareness programme yesterday.