Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing

Two new Covid-19 positive cases detected from the community yesterday have put Phuentsholing on alert mode.

A 54-year-old woman from Majuwa village under Phuentsholing gewog, who is also the primary contact of the index case (37-year-old expatriate woman working at Lucky Restaurant and Bar) and a 27-year-old man, employee of Bhutan Plastic Industry (BPI) in Pasakha, were detected as positive cases.

The woman from Majuwa village tested positive a week after the expatriate woman tested positive on January 7. Due to this case, the entirety of Majuwa has been put under lockdown until further notice. Majuwa residents are allowed to just move around for agricultural and livestock activities.

Movement of people from villages adjacent to Majuwa into Phuentsholing has also been restricted. Lockdown in these villages will be determined by the surveillance team after proper assessment.

BPI in Pasakha has been cordoned off completely. However, the industry is allowed to operate in containment mode. Immediate contacts of the positive case have been quarantined.

Since the BPI employee had visited the Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) head office in town, all the staff were tested for Covid-19 and their results are awaited. Until the results are out, the staff’s movement will be restricted.

Although all the primary contacts of the two cases have come out negative, many are of the view that the coronavirus could be within the community among the people.

A total of 727 samples were collected yesterday. Out of the total, 65 samples are from FCBL head office, 48 from Majuwa and Wangdigatshel communities.

A Phuentsholing resident, Sonam Penjor, said: “Although the fear of having a positive case among us is there, we cannot be sure about if the virus is among us. I can see many people getting a common cold and it’s difficult to say what they got.”

The businessman said a mass testing should be carried out to rule out any suspicion, as there is always fear of another blackout and lockdown.

Sensitisation programmes are also going on rapidly in Phuentsholing. About 137 taxi drivers were briefed on Covid-19 and the Omicron variant on January 13, while 125 truckers were sensitised yesterday.

A Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC19TF) member, Rixin Jamtsho, said door-to-door awareness and advocacy on Covid-19 safety protocols have been condcuted.

“We have stressed wearing surgical masks properly to the shopkeepers, owners of the restaurants, bars, salons and beauty parlours,” he said, adding the sensitisation was done on January 13.

In order to adhere to proper mask use, all the shops in Phuentsholing have also installed “no entry without mask” signs in their shops.

The Phuentsholing main gate area has also been declared a “restricted area” and the transaction of goods and parcels, including medicines, have been stopped. Should there be a requirement to bring in medicines unavailable in the country, people are asked to directly order from the suppliers across the border, and the transportation will be arranged by the Bhutan Post. Frontliners deployed at the main gate are kept in containment mode at Peljorling Hotel.

Currently, there are 35 active cases in Phuentsholing. Along with the Majuwa and BIP cases, four positive cases were also reported from the Amochhu quarantine facilities yesterday.