Nima | Gelephu  

Sarpang dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce decided to lift the lockdown in phases from today with the improved focus on manufacturing firms and schools in the dzongkhag.

The manufacturing firms are allowed to operate from today as a containment facility where workers will have to walk for the next two days until public transport service resumes on September 20.

  Gelephu unlocks after 37 days of lockdown today (file photo)

Gelephu unlocks after 37 days of lockdown today (file photo)

This is expected to help small and medium scale industries in the dzongkhag resume working swiftly as the firms remained closed during the lockdown.

Sarpang Dzongdag Karma Galay said there are many people dependent on small and medium enterprises to support families. “This time we have allowed them to open in the first phase. But, we want them to be in a self-contained facility. People should be in the campus and follow Covid-19 protocols,” he said.

The dzongkhag is also planning to resume the export of wood-based products besides the export of agriculture products such as potatoes, cardamom and ginger.

Officials from the Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industry in Gelephu said industries were worried about raw materials getting damaged and have managed to pay workers despite remaining closed during the lockdown.

There are seven manufacturing and production-based enterprises operating in Gelephu thromde today, at least employing 75 workers.

All schools to open with  boarding facility

Schools for classes X and XII would be opened from Monday followed by classes for IX and XI on Thursday. All students will study in boarding schools to ensure safety.

This is done mainly to reduce the risk of students getting exposed to infection as the Thromde is a high risk area.

It is also expected to help schools practice social distancing measures strictly.

The education ministry had instructed to open schools in the dzongkhag earlier, but Sarpang could not as it was in the process of lifting the lockdown.

The dzongdag said the thromde was asked to make arrangements where students don’t have to go home after school.

“It doesn’t look safe for the students to move around. We are requiring students to stay in the campus,” he said. There would be no day schooling and the thromde is expected to come up with the required arrangement.

However, none of the schools under Gelephu thromde has boarding facilities. The schools used by the frontline workers would be sanitized and disinfected to make it safe for use. The dzongkhag has identified two primary schools to be used as a containment facility for the frontline workers.

The dzongkhag deferred the plan to lift the lockdown last week after two frontline workers tested positive for Covid-19 on September 11 during mass testing of the frontline workers.

Rinxin Jamtsho, TAG member said that it was good to start lifting the lockdown, as prolonged lockdown would be a hassle to the people. “There are signs that people are used to the new normal. I have seen them follow safety measures,” he said.

However, the official highlighted the need to ensure strict monitoring of the people’s compliance with safety protocols during the lifting of the lockdown, as the risk of getting an infection is never zero.