Kuensel’s Samdrupjongkhar bureau reporter Kelzang Wangchuk interviews the new Eastern Covid-19 Task Force (EC-19TF) members

When did the new team take over the Eastern Covid-19 Task Force (EC-19TF)?

The reconstituted Eastern Covid-19 Task Force (EC-19TF) took over from the previous EC-19TF on March 17. The previous EC-19TF has done a commendable job in preventing and managing Covid-19 in the dzongkhags falling under its jurisdiction, particularly in the adjoining border areas.

When was the new task force constituted and what was the objective?

The EC-19TF was reconstituted to facilitate and support the Phase II Covid-19 management strategy, which focuses on protecting vulnerable individuals and providing appropriate clinical interventions.

The role of the EC-19TF is to carry out aggressive advocacy on preventive measures and ensure preparedness in the seven dzongkhags to face any challenges associated with the pandemic.

One of the team’s objectives is to instil confidence in the people’s minds and promote individual ‘gyenkhu’ in effectively dealing with the evolving challenges posed by the virus.

The EC-19TF ensures that the seven dzongkhags are fully prepared to mitigate short-term and long-term adverse impacts of opening up the region following the lifting of lockdowns and relaxation of Covid-19 related restrictions.

Towards this end, the EC-19TF aims to closely collaborate with the relevant local authorities to protect the people amid the surge in Covid-19 infections.

How will the new team manage the situation according to the new Covid-19 management strategy?

Given that there will be surges in Covid-19 infections, the local government (LG) administrations must be fully prepared to deal with such situations in their respective jurisdictions, including schools and religious and tertiary institutions.

Therefore, the EC-19TF is working with the LG administrations to undertake advocacy and closely monitor the state of preparedness for proper Phase II Covid-19 management strategy, promote vaccination, improve coverage, and encourage the vulnerable population to avail of the services of the reverse isolation facilities.

What did the team do after taking over the EC-19TF?

The new EC-19TF team met with the incident commanders (IC) of the seven dzongkhag Covid-19 task forces to review the Covid-19 situation in their respective dzongkhags and jointly developed the consolidated action plan (CAP) with the dzongkhags in line with the phase II Covid-19 management strategy.

The chiwog tshogpas have been assigned as focal persons in their respective chiwogs to carry out monitoring as per the CAP and surveillance of vulnerable individuals and others to provide the required health interventions promptly in close coordination with the healthcare providers, encouraged the dzongkhags to step up preparedness by fast-tracking the CAP implementation while simultaneously monitoring progress through the monitoring framework, which has also been circulated.

We also sensitized all gups from in the seven dzongkhags on Phase II Covid-19 management strategy and directed them to step up preparedness and conducted numerous field visits to take stock of the ground reality and recommend appropriate interventions.

During these visits, the EC-19TF met with local authorities, including schools, colleges and religious institutions, to prepare for the opening of schools and other institutions according to the protocols and guidelines issued by the education ministry, technical advisory group and health ministry.

The EC-19TF monitors the implementation of the SOPs daily and guidelines that have been put in place to address the concerns relating to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is the EC-19TF doing for trade, import of foreign workers, and facilitating import?

It may be noted that with the lifting of lockdowns and restrictions, the ease of doing trade and commerce has improved. Many measures, including containment requirements, driver switching stations, demarcation of high and low-risk areas, and the limit on business operation time, have been lifted to boost economic activities as per the national Covid-19 task force’s (NC-19TF) directives.

Furthermore, the EC-19TF and dzongkhag Covid-19 task force (DC-19TF) of Samdrupjongkhar, in compliance with the decision of NC-19TF, are facilitating the import of foreign workers, including bubble mode interventions by foreign technical experts and consultants on a case-by-case basis.

What are the new ideas the new team would implement to control the virus in the community?

Given the transition to the Phase II Covid-19 management strategy, the reconstituted EC-19TF has primarily focused on building confidence in the seven dzongkhags to manage the evolving Covid-19 situation, which includes promoting a very strong sense of individual ‘gyenkhu’ among the general public, ensuring adherence to Covid-19 guidelines and protocols, stepping up preparedness to deal with the prevailing situation and providing critical interventions as and when conditions warrant.

The present EC-19TF acknowledges the