Nima | Gelephu

Parking lots in Gelephu town are packed. The residents are coming out on the streets in growing numbers every day.

Save for financial institutions and the regional hospital that have security personnel monitoring people are found crowding everywhere.

Gelephu town operates like any other days even as the neighbouring town, Bongaigaon in Assam, India declared Red Zone for the Covid-19.

Assam has over 60 Covid-19 positive cases.

Bongaigaon is only about 50km away from Gelephu.

The border gate is sealed. However, almost the whole stretch of Sarpang dzongkhag shares porous border with the nearby States of India; some are only a few metres away from the Sarpang-Gelephu highway.

Karma Tsheten, a shopkeeper, said: “Now the people have started to come out. It could be because there has not been a local transmission so far. People have started taking things very lightly.”

Early last week, Umling Drungkhag sentenced eight Bhutanese for crossing the border using illegal routes. According to Gelephu police, over 20 people were caught crossing borders illegally.

Karma Dema, from Gelephu, said that there were only a few who followed social distancing advice. “The number of people coming out has increased visibly. This is a serious cause for concern.”

At the vegetable market, Ugyen Rabten, a member of the Covid-19 task force, tells people to maintain a gap while buying vegetables. He uses a mobile camera to film people in the market, reminding the public to be mindful while moving in the crowd.

He said that the people were becoming complacent. “I come here for over ten times a day. There are Desuups and Covid-19 task force monitoring and regulating the practice of preventive measures in the town.”

Sarpang Dzongdag Karma Galay said the dzongkhag was carrying out door-to-door advocacy and awareness related to the ongoing pandemic.

“We are trying to remind the people that this virus is not gone. We see more people this time around here because people have come back from elsewhere to their relatives. Some might have returned after losing jobs and some from abroad,” he said.