With 12 more people testing positive for Covid-19 on May 26, the total number of positive cases in Merak gewog in Trashigang increased to 32.

Health officials said all primary and secondary contacts were within pasture quarantine and do not have contact with people in proper Merak. They are still conducting contact tracing and investigating the cases.

While Merak residents said they adhere to the lockdown protocols, those in the pastureland with cattle face challenges.

Herder said it is time for cattle to move towards summer pastures and they are facing difficulty in keeping the animals in one area.

A highlander, Lobzang, said with places warming in summer, cattle cannot stay in the same place. “It is time to migrate towards a higher valley, but there are no clear directives from higher officials.”

He also said he is afraid of losing livestock to predators. “Cattle also wander in other’s pasture.”

Rinchen Dorji, 35, from Khashateng said while he is worried about the virus, he is more concerned about his cattle wandering in other’s pasture. “Government is doing the best to contain the virus, but it is also time to look into the problem we are facing today.”

He said controlling livestock moving towards villages is difficult.

Another highlander, Tashi, said he is running short of essential items in the jungle. “The remaining food stock won’t last a week for four of us,” he said. “I am really confused where to contact, as no one is allowed to come out.”

He said that if lockdown prolongs, more problems would arise in the jungle than in villages. “I would be grateful if the government could allow us to move into our summer pastures.”

Sakteng Drungkhag incident commander, Drungpa Sangay Dawa, said that in consultation with the eastern task force and technical advisory group (TAG), they decided to set up one health base camp in the pastureland.

“All infected patients in the pasture will be treated by the TAG team from the health base camp for 21 to 30 days. All health facilities would cater from the camp,” he said.

According to the drungpa, if the herders face a shortage of essential items, one member from each household would be allowed to drop essential items till Serkemla.

He said desuups would escort those dropping the essentials.  “We have also requested herders to share each other’s pasture for two to three weeks.”

By Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Edited by Tashi Dema