PM urges Bhutanese in Jaigaon, if any, to return

Younten Tshedup and Rajesh Rai  

If there are Bhutanese still living across the border, in Jaigaon, they should report to the Covid-19 task force in Phuentsholing and come home.

This is the message from Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering after five Covid-19 positive cases were reported in Jaigaon yesterday.

Lyonchhen said that currently, by record, there should be no Bhutanese residing in Jaigaon. However, in case there are any still living across the border, the government would facilitate their return as per the command of His Majesty The King.

“Any Bhutanese is always welcome to return and we are here to facilitate that. They should not worry and immediately contact the local task force so that they can assist in their return,” Lyonchhen said.

Pling gate

Phuentsholing border gate

Lyonchhen said that the government will treat Jaigaon like any other affected area and people coming from the place would be subjective to the mandatory 21-day quarantine period.

On the government’s strategy and preparedness plan, the Prime Minister said that there would be no changes to the existing plans and strategies.

“For the last five to six months, we have been on the highest alert mode in assumption of such a situation across the border.” However, he said that with the virus closing in, the public needs to be extra careful and cannot afford to be complacent.

“My request to the people would be to avoid meeting strangers and to practice the health advisories strictly,” Lyonchhen said.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that the health team is closely monitoring the situation in Phuentsholing and with the virus coming closer; the existing surveillance would be further strengthened.

“We have to consider and prepare for a community transmission as it is inevitable for us with the rate at which things are changing across our border,” she said.

Lyonpo said that the threat is not just from Jaigaon, which is why strict surveillance across all communities along the border areas are underway. Any change to the strategies and plans would depend on the unfolding situations across the border, the minister added.

Out of the five Covid-19 positive cases reported in Jaigaon yesterday, three are men and two women.

The first case was reported in a 45-year-old man, who was discharged from Kendriya Vidyalaya Hasimara quarantine centre yesterday. He had returned from Siliguri and was quarantined at Hasimara. He was released yesterday after concluding the 14 days quarantine period. A test was also conducted before he left the quarantine centre and the result came positive yesterday when he had already reached home.

He is from New Subhash Pali, which is located near SHMD school in Jaigaon. He has been sent to an isolation centre at Topsikata. His family members were quarantined at home, but were later taken to an isolation centre in the evening.

One woman, a 23-year-old is from Kokhlabasti, a small village across the Pasakha border. The other three are a 28-year-old woman from Jaigaon, a 52-year-old man and a 28-year-old man. All were quarantined in Jaigaon.

With Jaigaon being the largest cross-border neighbouring town, which borders with Phuentsholing, country’s largest commercial hub, residents in Phuentsholing have taken the news as a strong caution.

One resident said that Phuentsholing has become risky. “Vehicles keep coming from Jaigaon and there is more risk now,” he said, adding that people have to be extra alert round the clock.

“However, the government is doing everything and it is now people’s turn to show utmost caution among themselves.”

Another resident, Bimal Ghalley said that it is people’s moral responsibility now to follow all safety measures put in place.

Across the border, Jaigaon Merchants Association’s general secretary, RS Gupta said that there are two types of quarantine facilities in Jaigaon.

“One is facilitated by the government free of cost,” he said. “In the other, people will have to pay and stay.”

RS Gupta said that the situation, otherwise, was normal in Jaigaon. Face masks, sanitisers and social distancing are compulsory, he added. RS Gupta also said that there is strict monitoring of people at Dalsingpara, about 10km away from Jaigaon.

“People coming from outside are not allowed from that point. They are sent to quarantine centres,” he said.