17 Covid-19 cases confirmed in the border town

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Neighbouring town, Jaigaon has confirmed 17 Covid-19 positive cases, which many say could cross the porous border to the commercial hub of the country, Phuentsholing.

Sources confirmed that at least three officials from the Jaigaon police station have tested positive for the virus.

The general secretary of the Jaigaon Merchants’ Association (JMA), RS Gupta, said that mass testing has started in Jaigaon.

“About 100 people were tested when 17 positive cases were reported,” he said.

RS Gupta said that as more testings are done, more positive cases are going to appear. Most of the positive cases are also among public servants such as police and health officials, he added.

The GS said that people don’t show symptoms and that only testing could confirm the results.

“All the meetings and gatherings have been stopped for now in Jaigaon,” he said. “People have become more cautious. They wear masks.”

Recently, Jaigaon Transporters Welfare Association had announced that import-export via Phuentsholing-Jaigaon would be stopped from August 1. The association had placed certain demands to the Bhutanese counterpart.

However, the import-export has not been put to halt.

The import-export via Jaigaon and Phuentsholing wouldn’t be any problem, RS Gupta said. It is understandable that if Jaigaon is in problem, Bhutan will also be in problem, he added.

“Similarly, if Bhutan is in problem, Jaigaon will be in problem that is for sure,” he said. “We are two different entities but one soul.”

Considering the current status, Jaigaon will remain under complete lockdown from August 4 until August 9, it has been decided, he said. This decision, he explained, has been undertaken at the block development level.

The editor of a local magazine in Jaigaon, Ajay Verma said that Jaigaon was “green zone” until June 7. But on June 7, a 45-year-old man from Subash Pali was tested positive, following which four more were tested positive.

Recently, three deaths have been reported in Jaigaon, with the latest being reported on August 2 in a 36-year-old woman from Hasimara. The first death was from Dalsingpara where a 57-year-old woman and 52-year-old man from Jaigaon succumbed to the virus.

“Situation became alarming when people came to know about the two deaths in 24 hours’ time,” he said.

Around midnight on August 1, Ajay Verma said that the officer-in-charge of Jaigaon along with his two subordinates and two volunteers were tested positive. These police officials had volunteered on a Covid-19 testing camp organised in Jaigaon on July 27.

“Most of the Covid-19 patients are sent to Tapsikhata Integrated Ayush hospital in Alipurduar,” he said.

Tapsikhata is 54-km away from Jaigaon.

With rising Covid-19 cases in Jaigaon, Ajay Verma said Bhutanese should be aware and follow the WHO safety protocols.

“Jaigaon and Phuentsholing will be normal after the pandemic. Both the people of Phuentsholing and Jaigaon should stay united and hope for the best.”

Meanwhile, in Phuentsholing, people are aware of the situation across the border. As usual, wearing face masks and following the Covid-19 safety protocols are ongoing. Many are even expecting a lockdown would help.

A Phuentsholing resident, Sonam Tshewang said that residents of Phuentsholing should be more cautious.

“A community transmission is going to happen here as well if we are complacent,” he said.