Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

People in quarantine facilities in Punakha have raised health concerns over the dzongkhag task force’s decision to not allow garbage out of their rooms before they complete the quarantine period.

A Phuentsholing resident, who moved out to relocate her two school-going children has been in quarantine in Punakha since July 1.

She said that the initial quarantine period was seven but was later extended to 14.

“Now we are asked to stay for 21 days as informed by the PM. It is really difficult with all the trash inside the rooms.”

The quarantine period extension came after two individuals who travelled from Phuentsholing tested positive in Wangdue. Those in Punakha were also in the same group.

With increasing number of days in quarantine, individuals complained that keeping trash bins inside the room for longer duration was a problem.

In Punakha, three hotels have been identified as quarantine facilities. There are 105 individuals in quarantine in Punakha.

According to a source, when some people in quarantine facility tried to leave trash bins outside their rooms, they were advised to keep it inside. “Those who complained of trash bins were informed that the bins wouldn’t be collected until the end of the quarantine period.”

According to a dzongkhag taskforce member, the individuals were provided with plastic bags to store their garbage.

He said the decision was according to quarantine protocol, which denied outflow of any kind of materials. “If we allow people to move in and out, then there is no use of quarantine.”

However, individuals complained that the smell was becoming unhygienic for those living inside the room.

There are parents with children younger than one-year-old whose garbage also includes diapers.

According to a woman in quarantine in Punakha, although the plastic bags were provided, she said that the bags had to be opened after every meal to dispose waste.

“We have tried to reduce garbage. If we have leftovers, then we don’t bring any food,” said a man who is inside one of the quarantine facilities in Punakha.

“As per the standard operating procedure (SOP), they are supposed to take trash at certain intervals.”

The fourth edition of guidance and SOP on quarantine for Covid-19 states that commercial waste bag or biohazard bags shall be collected and sealed when the bag is three fourth full and shall be placed outside the room to be collected by the cleaner, which will then be placed at designated area.

It also states that for the designated facilities hotels used for holding travellers from affected countries and no case confirmed in the facility, the general waste disposal process shall be followed. “However, the facilities or hotels quarantining the primary contacts, sprinkle or pour two percent glutaraldehyde or 0.5 percent bleaching solution on waste bag and keep it for 20 minutes, tighten it and then dispose.”

The dzongkhag taskforce member said that the taskforce considered emergency situations and had also advised flushing small disposable waste in the toilet.

He shared that regular outflow of things from quarantine facilities meant high risks of breaching protocol.

Meanwhile, the individuals were allowed to leave their trash outside their doors yesterday after staying in the quarantine for 14 days.

Edited by Tashi Dema