… unlocking plans onboard as fourth lockdown ends

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Despite still being in lockdown, more than 4,000 individuals received the second dose in Phuentsholing as of yesterday. This includes all the residents of Mega Zone 3 and parts of Mega Zone 1 and 2.

Children aged between 12 and 17 years were given Pfizer shots. Phuentsholing has 1,771 youths in this age group. There are 3,871 under 11 years old.

Vaccination at Mega Zone 3 started on July 21 and concluded yesterday, while vaccination for Mega Zone 1 and 2 began yesterday.

Mega Zone 3 covers Pasakha and Pekarzhing. Vaccination started earlier in Mega Zone 3 because it didn’t report any positive cases for more than 21 days.

Although the plan was to start the vaccination drive after the mass screening in Mega Zone 1 and 2, the Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC-19TF) announced a change in the plan late night on July 21. The mass testing was cancelled.

Vaccination started from Phuentsholing Shedra and Toorsa Tar in Mega Zone 1 and Rinchending Goenpa and College of Science and Technology (CST) in Mega Zone 2.

The vaccinators go door to door. De-suups called out residents for the jab. Those suffering from Covid-19-like signs and symptoms were not vaccinated.

Individuals in red buildings and clusters will be vaccinated in their respective homes or apartments after completion of vaccination.

Vaccination underway in Pasakha

Relaxation starts in Mega Zone 3

Since vaccination is over in Mega Zone 3, a restrictive movement or yellow phase will begin today.

Movement of people on foot within the sub-zones Ahlay, Pasakha and Pekarzhing will be allowed until 7:30pm. Shops are allowed to open from 8am to 7pm.

Construction activities and operation of industries are allowed in self-containment mode. Export and import will be facilitated as per the protocols prescribed by the SC-19TF.

Mega Zone 3 will transition into the green phase or complete relaxation from July 30, provided there are no positive cases.

Meanwhile, Mega Zone 1 and 2  will remain under complete lockdown until the vaccination campaign is over.

A restrictive movement, for one vaccinated individual from every household, will be allowed to come out to buy essential supplies from the eighth day for the next one week. This means, the vaccination programme will complete by July 28 and only one person will be allowed to come out until August 4.

A complete lockdown is expected for Mega Zones 1 and 2 between August 10 and 13.

This period will give adequate antibodies to vaccinated individuals including children who are receiving their first Pfizer dose.

Any response measures to be imposed upon detection of cases during lockdown or yellow phase post-vaccination will be decided based on the epidemiological situation. 

This approach adopted will give everyone who got vaccinated adequate immune protection that can avoid or minimise outbreaks and transmission after re-opening.  

Meanwhile, symptomatic testing will continue in all three zones. 

The current enhanced surveillance strategy will also be continued for another month after vaccination.

What are the people  saying?

While vaccination has come as a huge relief to residents, many businessmen are worried further lockdown until full relaxation would worsen their situation.

A restaurant owner, Karma Tshering Dorji said he doesn’t understand why there should be further lockdown until mid-August after the vaccination.

“It is almost half a year,” he said. “We have rents to pay. The things inside the restaurant are already damaged.”

He said that restaurants and bars were the ones that will see maximum protocols after the relaxation. Crowding at the multi-storied vegetable complex was more concerning, he said.

“I think shops in the town must be allowed to sell vegetables until the outbreak is fully contained after the vaccination,” he said.

A grocery retail shop owner, Dorji Wangchuk said he even called 5555 to ask if there was any possibility to take some essentials home.

“But it was not allowed. The rats must have spoiled everything,” he said. He said he is worried about paying four months’ rent and the further lockdown was not helping.

“It is more than three months and there are positive cases from the community which is also surprising,” he said. “I have some proof to show why there are positive cases.”

Another shopkeeper, Namgay Dorji said the vaccination was a blessing. “But we are worried the lockdown will continue until mid-August.”

“We are under lockdown from April to August. How can we manage to pay rent for five months?” he said. “Government has lots of plans like fiscal and monetary policies for the nation. But now the government must focus more on Phuentsholing and provide us with special schemes.”

A resident said that the vaccination and further lockdown plan was a “very well directed move” by the SC-19TF.

“It is better than waiting a few more days for the mass screening,” he said. “Otherwise the vaccination would be delayed.”

Meanwhile, Samtse vaccinated around 3,000 individuals on the first day of the campaign yesterday.

“Given that these places are still under lockdown, we are aware of the inconveniences caused, however, we acknowledge the solidarity shown by the individuals residing there,” Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said.

Edited by Tshering Palden