Tshering Namgyel | Mongar

After the first positive COVID-19 case was reported, worried residents of Mongar and Lhuentse were sceptical of allowing people from Thimphu and border areas to visit their towns.

A group of 12 tourists, who were on their way to visit a weaving centre in Khoma, Lhuentse, had to return to Thimphu after spending two days in a hotel in Mongar, as locals remained reluctant to welcome them.

Mongar town resident, Damchoe, said that after hearing the news of COVID-19 case in the country, she was worried her relatives staying out of town might come home. “It’s scary and I try to keep myself away as much as possible.”

In the towns, the number of people using masks also increased.

The only medical shop in Mongar also ran out of masks, hand sanitisers and liquid hand washing soaps. 

The proprietor of Wangmo Pharmacy located in the heart of the town, Talman, said more than 400 masks, a hundred hand sanitisers and 50 Dettol liquid soaps, which usually take a month to sell, are sold in two days. “People started panicking after hearing the news and started rushing instantly. There are many still looking for them.”

Meanwhile, Mongar dzongkhag officials say they are prepared.

Mongar regional referral hospital (MRRH) has been screening patients coming from abroad and patients with flu symptoms.

Health officials said around 50 patients were tested daily on a 24-hour basis by the health staff on rotation. There was not a single person fulfilling the case definition of a suspect was detected so far.

MRRH medical superintendent, Dr Pelden Wangchuk said a 13-bed single isolation room with toilet attached has been identified, and a clinical team including doctors, nurses and lab technicians has been formed.

“We have set up five quarantine centres, mostly guest houses and school buildings, with food and logistics internally arranged,” he said. “Health staff for quarantine was formed into groups for 14 days shift.”

Dr Pelden Wangchuk said around 347 health officials including the health assistants and the hospital staff, 40 police personnel, 38 desuups, two Road Safety and Transport Authority officials and four hoteliers were trained.