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Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Much to the surprise of many residents who were expecting lockdown relaxations, the Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC-19TF) announced yesterday evening that the town will remain under lockdown for another 10 days beginning February 6.

The decision was taken considering the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the town. It was taken as per the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

Phuentsholing has been under lockdown since January 15. Starting from January 6, about 736 cases have been detected in Phuentsholing as of yesterday—and 468 positive individuals are in isolation facilities.

Of the total 36 positive cases yesterday, 16 were from the community.




The task force in a notification yesterday underscored they are also facing an acute shortage of isolation and quarantine facilities with an increasing number of positive cases.

“The risk of hospital transmission that would collapse the healthcare services at any point of time cannot be ruled out.”

Lockdown

The lockdown this time will be more severe. Movement of people with zone cards will not be allowed. There will be no home delivery services. The vegetables will be delivered once on February 12.

Phuentsholing drungkhag will coordinate the supply of essentials to peri-urban areas. Movement in the peri-urban areas will be restricted within their houses and agricultural or livestock areas.

All constructions approved earlier will be suspended, except critical public infrastructure activities and flood mitigation works. Movement of stranded people to other dzongkhags will also be withheld. However, the travel of individuals who have completed the quarantine period will be facilitated.




Movement of people in emergency medical (death) cases will be facilitated case-by-case, the task force said. “Emergency medical services by Mobile Health Team will be available.”

Crematory services will be limited only to family members and relatives up to a maximum of 20 people.

Import of essential goods will also continue. Factories and industries have to operate in containment mode, according to the notification.

 

What do residents say?

There are mixed reactions among the residents in the town.

A resident, Dorji Wangchuk said the news was not the most pleasing one.

“Lockdown must be a strict one but had it been done since the beginning, the situation could have been normal now,” he said. “It is as if we were not under lockdown until now.”

While many small businesses are recovering from the losses incurred in the 2021 lockdown, Dorji Wangchuk said the longer a lockdown is, the more the people will suffer.




“No one does business without loans,” he said. “But still, we have to follow the orders for the betterment.” 

A private employee, Melam said that it was a wise decision.

“These 10 days will be the main tool to break the Omicron chain. It will be the best measure,” he said. “After this, unlocking should be done gradually zone-wise.”

Another said such a measure should have been implemented long ago.

“We were wasting so much by taking people to quarantine and isolation, which were unnecessary expenditures that could have been avoided if complete lockdown had been imposed in the first place.”

A few are also asking if there will be mass screenings or cluster screenings in these 10 days.

“If the mass screening or cluster screenings are not done, numbers will automatically decrease,” a resident, Tshering said.

“But when we open again, the virus will spread again resulting in further lockdowns. Cluster screening or mass screening in these 10 days is important.”

A shopkeeper, Namgay, said a complete lockdown will benefit. “But if import-export continues, I still see risks there.”

Namgay said the situation in Phuentsholing is grim considering there are not enough spaces for isolation and quarantine.

“This is a big problem. Children must be kept separately. If all people are kept in groups, then it is risky,” he said. “The problem will then continue.”

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