Rajesh Rai Phuentsholing  

Going by the increasing number of people wearing facemasks in Phuentsholing, the country’s biggest trade town that shares porous border with India, awareness and prevention measures to control the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are well in place.

Health officials and others involved are continuously encouraging people to use masks. Almost everyone in the town, Bhutanese and people from across the border, are seen wearing the masks.

  More than 16,000 masks were sold in the last few days

More than 16,000 masks were sold in the last few days

Medical stores are busy selling masks. Small paan shops have also started to keep masks. Rates have not been inflated.

Namsey medical store’s owner, Shiva Kumar Sharma, said they sell more than 1,000 pieces of mask every day. There are two types of mask – one that is made of cloth, which costs Nu 25 and Nu 10 for the disposable mask.

“We have sold more than 16,000 masks in the last few days,” he said. “Our stocks have exhausted about three times. We procured again.”

People are also buying hand sanitisers from medical stores.

A businessman in the town said that people are well aware of the situation and being cautious using masks. “People shouldn’t travel unnecessarily.”

He said officials are also doing a great job. “But we should not lose track and become complacent even for a single moment.”

With monitoring taken to Chinese Lane gate and second gate, officials have covered to all the four entry points. At the main entry point near the main gate, two separate lines have been maintained to check men and women. A tent has also been raised as a base for monitoring.

Regional tourists and Bhutanese with travel history are also being asked to fill up the health declaration form. More than 3,000 forms have been filled and no suspect cases have been reported so far.

Officials from the health office, Dessup, immigration, police and others are continuously checking visitors’ temperature.

Dr Thinley Pelzang of Phuentsholing General Hospital said anyone with fever and travel history to China would be considered a suspect. “There is no suspect case as of now.”

He said they encourage wearing mask to all for self-protection. Hand sanitiser is also kept at the gate for people to use.

Meanwhile, monitoring starts from 6am to 10pm. Three shifts are followed. After the gates closed, policemen check incoming vehicles.

More than 10,000 people are being checked every day with non-contact infrared thermometer. The task becomes a challenge two times in the morning and evening when the movement increases with people rushing to office and while returning.

About 15 health field staffs have also joined Phuentsholing hospital team.