Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Movement of goods in and out of Phuentsholing is stopped after three drivers transporting essentials from mini-dry port (MDP) to Sorchen tested Covid-19 positive yesterday.

Besides the truck parking, which serves as another temporary port, the transshipment area at Sorchen also remains closed.

On May 9, samples of 108 drivers were collected out of which three tested Covid-19 positive. About 27 loaders from the MDP also tested negative. Three people from H&K company near the MDP and three MDP sweepers also tested negative. 

The second mass screening, which was supposed to start today has been deferred, Sowai Lyonpo (Health Minister) Dechen Wangmo announced yesterday evening.

The health ministry’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) advised the Southern Covid-19 taskforce to defer the testing as positive cases were still being detected from the community.

According to the minister, the second mass screening could begin after a week considering the incubation of the virus. Further unlocking will depend on results of the mass screening, the minister said.

As per the first phase of the lockdown relaxation, restrictive movement is still allowed.

Until recently, community cases were reported from just one cluster, the lower market area. Positive cases have now emerged from three other places.

Sowai Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said as more tested positive from the community, including the truck drivers, there were chances of residual cases in the community.

“We will be able to find it,” she said, adding this was done as per the TAG’s recommendation.

Lyonpo said MDP is one of three most risky areas to consider in Phuentsholing.

“No lapses should come from here,” she said, adding that the entire country’s supply of essentials would get disrupted if MDP gets positive cases.

“The loaders are serving during difficult times. We hope they will continue.”

There are close to 100 loaders at MDP. All were being tested as of yesterday and the results are expected today.

Along with the MDP, the health minister said Pasakha Industrial Estate and quarantine facilities were other two risky areas that needed utmost caution. 

Lyonpo said Core 4, which is in the main town, had the most community cases so far in Phuentsholing. Although Pasakha had a number of community cases earlier, she said it was quickly contained.

After the first case was detected in Phuentsholing on April 16, the town has seen a total of 132 positive cases. Today, Phuentsholing has 80 active cases.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo also cautioned that 61 percent of the positive cases are primary contacts. 

“They were declared positive in the facility quarantine. People in the red zones or clusters should not move around.”

A total of 30 positive cases were from the community, which is 10 percent of the total cases detected in Phuentsholing. About 17 cases were tested from the flu-clinic and 21 cases were reported among the frontline workers.

“His Majesty after the tour of high risk areas recently has commended the cooperation of the residents to the safety measures despite the difficulties,” she said.

The health minister said people must now understand they are in a very high risk area and “extra precaution” must be considered.

She also said the children below 18 (about 30 percent of the total Bhutanese), who are ineligible for the vaccine, were the most vulnerable and that the people should think about their safety. There are still 20,000 eligible people who have not vaccinated despite being eligible.