Choki Wangmo

Physical distancing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. However, many of the public places in Thimphu are facing difficulty in limiting the number of people coming into close contact.

At the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM), for example, thousands of people gather every day.

Sherab Lhamo, a vegetable vendor, said was now having to deal with more than 2,000 customers due to panic-buy after Covid-19 cases in the country. “It is risky but without selling vegetables, we have no other sources of income.”

She said that in case there was a Covid-19 case at the market, it would be disastrous. Contact tracing will be difficult. What’s more, vendors faced difficulty in maintaining hygiene and had no time to wash hands frequently.

CFM management has installed four hand-washing facilities at the market’s entrances. Four more is expected by the end of this week. A few days ago, the management also distributed 250 litres of hand sanitisers among the vendors.  Four television sets have been installed to provide timely information to the people in the market.

Manager Tshering Tenzin said: “The management has informed people to maintain physical distance but with rush it is difficult to monitor.”

Automobile workshop area in Olakha is facing the same problem. Although the number of visitors thinned after Covid-19 cases in the country, maintaining physical distance is a challenge due to space crunch and nature of work.

In an effort to encourage physical distancing, the referral hospital in Thimphu this week introduced red lines. This is expected to prevent spread of infection, maintain a distance from each other in outpatient and inpatient departments at the hospital.

The banks too are facing the same crowded problem. At the Bank of Bhutan’s branch office in Chubachu, taps have been installed and hand sanitisers at convenient and sensible locations. Visitors are required to register their details at the entrance to make contact tracing easy.

The bank has witnessed about 80 percent reduction in the number of visitors. The bank also has marked red lines for physical distancing.

Public relations and media officer with BOB, Pasang Norbu, said the bank was encouraging digital banking to avoid crowding.

Press release from the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday urged individuals to maintain physical distance at grocery outlets, vegetable markets, fuel depots or other public places such as banks and hospitals. The Road Safety and Transport Authority has been instructed to design and implement strategies for passengers using public transports to maintain physical distance.

“All business entities must ensure and make it conducive for their customers to maintain physical distance. While open-air shows are disallowed, television programmes must be modified for participants to observe physical distance,” the press release stated.

Yesterday, UNICEF Bhutan received USD 450,000 from the Government of Japan to support Bhutan’s efforts to fight Covid-19.