Alleged locals calling them “coronavirus”

Phub Dem | Paro

Patients and their attendants who returned from Kolkata yesterday didn’t have nice stories to share as they alleged of being discriminated while in Kolkata amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ten patients along with 16 attendants shared their experience soon after reaching the Paro international airport.

A focal person of patients referred to a hospital in India, Jigme Dorji, shared several incidences where locals in Kolkata called Bhutanese ‘Coronavirus’ while visiting public places.

He said drivers and bikers by the road when seeing Bhutanese pass by called them ‘coronavirus.’ “Although no one was harassed or abused, every time I go out to buy groceries people called me by the name of the virus,” he said.

This, he said was the only reason why he returned home. “Otherwise, I would be looking after Bhutanese patients there.”

Pema Tshering, a father of a child, who had undergone a heart surgery, said locals there describe Bhutanese as the Chinese virus. “Perhaps they mistake us for Chinese because they call us Chinese virus,” he said.

He said some vendors even denied selling vegetables to the Bhutanese. It has been 21 days since the patient was discharged.

The parents tried to come home but due to the lockdown in India, they had to stay back.  Pema Tshering said that he was worried about his child since the child was fragile and was at risk.

He said that it was a relief to be back home. “The surgery was successful and my family is back safe and sound. I am blessed.”

Another patient attendant said it was risky to go outside to buy essential items considering the crowded population in India. “It was difficult to maintain distance and there were risks of infecting the virus.”

There are more than 20 patients still in Calcutta, according to a health official accompanying the patients yesterday.

She said that the health staff were on home quarantine but they had to accompany the patients in case of emergency.

Drukair’s relief flights brought home 59 Bhutanese from Calcutta and Bangkok yesterday.

Swab samples of all patients and attendants were sent to Royal Centre for Disease Control in Thimphu.