The neighbouring state confirmed one Covid-19 case

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

With neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh having confirmed a Covid-19 positive case, officials are keeping vigil over the porous border.

Dzongkhag officials said almost all the highlanders in Trashigang who were away with their cattle across the border in Arunachal Pradesh have returned to Bhutan. The highlanders were at the brangsa (temporary place where herders stay with their cattle) on the Indian side of the border.

After dzongkhag and gewog administrations instructed herders to come back in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, 30 households managed to come back across the Lingsangla, the border point between the two districts.

There are three routes to the neighbouring state (Tawang) from Merak gewog – Khenteng, Khelephu and Dompazor, where highlander could get in touch with people in Tawang. The border crossing at Khengteng is a two-day walk from Merak and Dompazor, four days. However, both the routes are covered by snow.

Local leaders said that the gewog Tshogpa is monitoring the Khelephu pass day and night. The local leader also instructed people to stay within their gewog.

According to Trashigang dzongdag, Chekey Gyeltshen, there are 12 households in Sakteng and 19 on Merak who stay away with their cattle at the Brangsa. “We managed to bring all household except one. A household with three members was left behind because the route is covered by thick snow,” he said.

The dzongdag added that the family members did not have access to mobile phone as they are in remote part, isolated from the people in the state.

From Sakteng gewog, Arunachal Pradesh can be reached from four passes – Lingsangla, Jangpuensum, Dorlung and Zanggak.

The dzongdag said out of the four, three are covered by snow. The one open, Lingsangla, is closely monitored. He said, highlanders would take about three to four hour from Sakteng to cross the border point at Lingsangla. “We sent four teams to all the border points twice. There is no way that highlander can cross the border, as an Indian surveillance team is strictly monitoring the border.”

On the Bhutan side, a team of police, Desuup, civil servant and villagers are regularly monitoring the border points.

Dzongdag explained that the teams halt for two nights at border points and is changed after a daylong monitoring. “We are prepared for worst,” said dzongdag.

In Trashiyangtse, three gewogs share borders with Arunachal Pradesh- Janphutse in Toetsho gewog, Duktey in Yallang and Shingphel in Bumdeling.

It takes about 30 minutes from Janphutse in Toetsho gewog to reach the border of Arunachal Pradesh and more than one hour from the police outpost at Dutey in Yalang gewog.

Trashiyangtse dzongda, Thuji Tshering said all border points in Trashiyangtse has permanent police officials and army stationed. “The police and army officials are patrolling everyday. In consultation with police officials and communities, they are asked to monitor strictly,” he said.

The dzongdag had visited the bordering gewogs to meet with people settled near the Indian border and sensitized them on Covid-19. “People are aware and understand the risk,” he said.

Police officials in Trashiyangtse said there is no movement of people across the border and people settled in boarding area are cautious after the first positive case was reported in Arunachal Pradesh.

Three additional police officials were deployed at a place called Manam which used to be the main trading route between Tawang and Trashiyangtse.