Kelzang Wangchuk | Jomotshangkha

Jomotshangkha in Samdrupjongkhar experienced the first lockdown in the country last year.  The drungkhag today has become an example in spreading health and prevention messages related to Covid-19.

The small and sparsely populated town is filled with signboards and hand washing stands everywhere, from private houses to shop fronts to office doorsteps.

“Let’s give everyone a clean hand”, “Wash hands to save lives”, “Please wash your hands and maintain physical distance”, “Wear your mask”, health messages are varied and ubiquitous.

The hand-washing stands are painted orange and written on them is “Our Gyenkhu”—our responsibility.  These little initiatives bring a sense of togetherness which perhaps is critically important in the face of a deadly pandemic.

These “good changes”, as people here describe the development, began soon after the drungkhag experienced the lockdown in May.  And by the look of it, it’s going to stay even after the pandemic.

Shopkeepers here do not allow customers to enter shops if they do not wash their hands.  They will have to wear face masks and use the Druk Trace App.  Crowding is strictly not permitted.

Chimi, a shopkeeper, said that people of the drungkhag could not travel anywhere after the border gates were closed.  The drungkhag does not have an internal road connection. “Our business is severely affected but safety is important.”

Tashi, also a shopkeeper, said that people understood the importance of adhering to the health and Covid protocols. “We must fight the danger facing us today together, as one. It’s easy when everyone follows the rules.

Jomotshangkha drungpa, Lamdak Wangdi, said that everyone was involved in keeping the communities safe—from students to police to local government officials.  The police installed hand washing stands and students painted them orange with health messages.

After the week-long lockdown, the drungkhag’s Covid-19 task force conducted the awareness programme. “What we found was that people are very supportive. This amazing cooperation must be sustained at all costs.”