Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The government yesterday changed the Covid-19 travel protocol and declared that people stranded in red zones have to stay in quarantine for seven days before returning to their respective places.

However, many people have come to Phuentsholing without undergoing the quarantine period, prior to this notification, and worry the residents.

Residents say that considering the government declaring Thimphu and Paro community transmission was 10 times bigger than the one in Phuentsholing in August 2020, letting people enter Phuentsholing without staying in quarantine posed serious threats.

They feared people could breach home-quarantine protocols after taking the RT-PCR sample for tests, which will not be detected within the next few days.

“It poses risk of transmission even if RT-PCR comes negative at the time of test,” a resident said.

People also stressed the RT-PCR result will be misleading during early incubation of Covid-19.

Although the incubation period, the time between exposure to the virus and symptom onset, of the coronavirus as per the WHO is five to six days, it can also go as long as 14 days.

“There have also been instances of cases being detected between 10 to 13 days of exposure from the quarantine centres,” a resident said.

“And if a returnee is exposed, he or she will also risk other family members.”

A resident, Namgay, said the government increased the risk of Covid-19 spread by sending people without staying in quarantine, assuming lockdown as quarantine.

“They can’t put us to risk. People never follow home quarantine.”

On January 7, about 12 people stranded in Thimphu came to Phuentsholing and three from Paro. They are under home quarantine today.

Between January 3 to January 7, a total of 37 people have come to Phuentsholing from Thimphu without undergoing the quarantine period and 10 from Paro.

People stranded in other places such as Wangdue, Punakha, Dagapela have also come to Phuentsholing during this period.

On December 27, 2020, the National Covid-19 task force stated that travellers from high-risk areas needn’t undergo facility quarantine till further order as they have been placed under lockdown since December 23, 2020.

“All travellers from high risk areas will have to test negative to RT-PCR before travelling to other places.”

Meanwhile, the families of the returnees are also not allowed to come out. They also have to undergo the home quarantine.

A resident, Ranjan Kumar Mongar, who returned to Phuentsholing on January 7 said he will be under home quarantine until January 14.

“Although I didn’t have to undergo mandatory quarantine in Thimphu, I was allowed to come from Thimphu only after testing negative on RT-PCR.”

In his Phuentsholing residence, the man said DeSuups kept an eye on him and came to check him time and again. He also signed an agreement stating he would not breach the home quarantine rules.

A health official said these returnees under home quarantine are monitored by police, DeSuups, and officials from thromde and health. All their family members are also put under home quarantine after signing the undertakings.

On the eighth day of their return, they will be tested for RT-PCR.

Meanwhile, people stranded in red zones have also travelled Samtse.

Between January 3 and January 7, about 14 have come to Samtse from Thimphu, while three from Paro.

A resident of Norgaygang, Shyam Gurung, said home quarantine in rural places is not practical and not possible at all.

“The Covid-19 is spreading in Thimphu and Paro and the people stranded must undergo seven days’ quarantine before coming to their respective villages,” he said.

“People will not stay put in a rural place, as they have to work in the fields and look after their cattle.”