… the lockdown in the town was lifted after more than 100 days

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

After nearly four months under lockdown, Phuentsholing residents thronged the streets yesterday as businesses and life in the town returned to normal.

The Southern Covid-19 task force lifted the lockdown completely. 

At a small alley of Gatoen Lam, shopkeepers were busy cleaning their shops.

“All the goods are damaged. We saw a similar loss the last time we were allowed to open the shops,” a shopkeeper, Sangay Lhamo, 42, said.

The damage was more during the initial lockdown because everyone had to leave abruptly on the evening of April 16, she said.

As her shop is now allowed to open, she is worried about paying rent. She has not been asked to pay the rent so far. 

“My worry is rent for my house and shop.”

Her friend, Tom Kumari Tiwari has similar worries—that of rents. No customers turned up at the shops even by noon. 

“I haven’t paid four months’ rent,” she said. “They haven’t asked yet.”

For most shopkeepers, yesterday remained a cleaning day. Rats and bugs had invaded their shops. However, they said they have lost almost half a year to the lockdown and the pandemic. Recovery seems to be difficult. 

With many residents now settled in other places, Phuentsholing doesn’t have many customers, the shopkeepers said.

However, there was a huge crowd in the town yesterday. Most of them were shopping to send their children to Punakha later this week.

There were also those who were out to see the town after such a long time. There were some from Mega Zone 1, who came to meet friends in the core town, which falls under Mega Zone 2.

Phuentsholing went into the third lockdown on April 17. The town has not opened fully since then. Mass screenings were carried out but the town didn’t see relief as Covid-19 positive cases kept emerging from various pockets.

On July 9, the town saw more restrictions and another 14-day lockdown. However, positive cases still emerged from the community.

In the meantime, the second dose of the vaccination programme began and ended on July 26. Four community cases were reported until August 9, when the Southern Covid-19 Task Force announced major relaxations starting August 10.

However, a 35-year-old man, working as a loader in one of the departmental stores in the core town, tested positive the same evening the relaxation was announced.

He tested positive after testing in the flu clinic. He is also vaccinated with the second dose. The building where he stayed was cordoned off. It didn’t deter people from coming out.

A businessman, Biswadeep said that life would go on. “I think we will have to live with the virus now. And our safety is in our hands.”

“The Task Force and the government have done all they could. What we need to realise is that it is in our hands at the end of the day. Just like the government has been telling us, our lives are more important,” he said. “We have to survive.”

  Hundreds throng the streets in Phuentsholing town yesterday after lockdown the Southern Covid-19 task force lifted the lockdown 

Edited by Tshering Palden