Shopkeepers and elderly with underlying illness expect the hot spring to open with safety measures 

Nima | Gelephu

The tshachhu visiting season is drawing to a close but there is no one at Gelephu tshachhu.

The hot spring remained closed in March last year for maintenance.  Later, when the country reported more Covid-19 positive cases, the local authorities decide to keep it closed.

The small business community near the hot spring looks abandoned.  The shelves in the shops are dusty, and the rooms that used to be crammed with people are locked and quiet.

Kunzang Lhamo, a resident who runs a small grocery shop nearby, said their livelihood has been severely hampered since the closing.

“My son from abroad is helping me meet my daily expenses for now,” she said.

Her income tax was waived in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the renewal fees reduced.

“I borrowed money to pay the renewal fees,” said Kunzang Lhamo. “Looks like the situation will remain the same this year too.”

She added that reopening the hot spring would be helpful especially for the elderly and sick, who depend on the hot spring for cure and treatment.

“It would be a huge relief for the businesses nearby the hot spring,” said Kunzang Lhamo.

Raju Gurung, who runs a hotel and lodging services for the visitors, said: “It’s difficult to meet the expenses for my children. It’s becoming difficult.”

He suggested opening the hot spring with safety protocols in place. “There are many people asking when the tshachhu will reopen,” said Raju Gurung.

The hot spring is expected to remain closed this year, as the risk of contracting Covid-19 still remains high.

It is uncertain when the tshachhu will reopen, according to Umling drungpa, Karma Wangdi.

He said the hot spring could remain closed this year with the dzongkhag still considered a red zone. “It’ll remain closed for some more months. We’re trying but there’s a risk of doing more damage instead of helping,” he said.

“There are many things we need to consider. The task force discussed it too. Nothing is decided for now,” said the drungpa.

There are about half a dozen locals running shops and restaurant business at Gelephu tshachhu today.