Delivery of essentials a failure, say residents
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
With three new cases detected yesterday, Phuentsholing has now 16 confirmed Covid-19 positive cases. All are from the Mini Dry Port (MDP).
Two men and a woman, who are the primary contacts of the positive case in Phuentsholing, were all found to be Covid-19 positive yesterday. Health ministry said they are from the MDP and not from the community.
Kuensel sources said that the woman is a sweeper at the MDP. She also worked at the MDP canteen. By late yesterday evening, rumours that three policemen in Phuentsholing had been infected with the virus had gone viral. Kuensel sources said that one of the two men is a traffic policeman. However, Kuensel couldn’t confirm this officially.
Meanwhile, the lockdown has brought the country’s largest commercial town to a standstill. Although figures couldn’t be confirmed, Kuensel learned there were Bhutan bound trucks stuck across the border. Many trucks are also stranded at the MDP.
Without the entry of trucks to Phuentsholing, the MDP has also ceased to function. Along with loaders (about 140), at least 60 customs officials have been quarantined.
Revenue and customs officials from Paro will be brought to Phuentsholing to replace the staff quarantined, but finding new loaders is a problem. About 420 primary contacts were traced on the first day after the MDP positive case.
In Pasakha, some factories are operating. A source said the government gave the industries certain conditions to fulfil and those who fulfilled were allowed to operate, while others had to shut down. However, export and import has come to a standstill.
All the factory workers are confined to individual factory premises. Nobody is allowed to move in or out of their factory premises.
An industrialist said that without the local transmission until recently, every effort was put to ensure the economy was not affected.
“Now that we are in a lockdown, it’s life before livelihood. The good news is that Pasakha is still a green zone,” the industrialist said.
“We are hoping to keep it that way.”
As Phuentsholing is a red zone, the Covid-19 Task Force in Phuentsholing in a press release yesterday announced there would be no regulated access to grocery shops.
Earlier modality for purchase of essential items allowed people to register over the phone with the hotline (5555) from 9am to 5pm and a regulated access to designated retail outlets was allowed. One registered member of a household was allowed to go out shopping twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday. Designated retail outlets were supposed to open from 10am to 5pm.
However, in the press release yesterday, the Task Force announced all essential items would be delivered at homes by identified stores.
“To place orders for essential items, individuals should call the trader directly. If the trader cannot be reached, the individual can call 5555,” the press release said.
“Identified traders will receive orders of essential items for home delivery from 8am to 1pm every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Home delivery will be carried out from 2pm to 8pm on the same day.”
The press release stated that customers are advised to order quantities to last for one week at a time to reduce frequency of movement for home delivery. Identified traders are asked to avoid cash transactions and encouraged to facilitate payment through e-payment applications.
Individuals who are not able to get home delivery services are asked to call the Regional Trade and Industries Office. For the delivery of vegetables, residents could contact FCBL or other vendors through the hotline centre at 5555.
Much to the relief of the residents, the Task Force also announced that people from other parts of the country currently stranded in Phuentsholing could register with the Covid-19 Control Centre Helpline at 1216 from 9am to 7pm on weekdays, and hotline 5555 during other times.
Until the third day of the lockdown, many people took to social media platforms to express their frustration over difficulty in buying essentials. Many were able to go to the stores and get the groceries but couldn’t buy vegetables.
Vegetables are still a problem in Phuentsholing. Without import, relevant agencies are mobilising vegetables from different regions in the country, it has been learned.
One Phuentsholing resident, Namgay said he has run out of vegetables. “I also called for LPG refill but they told me that they don’t have a vehicle to deliver ,” he said. “This is very sad.”
Although the introduction of home delivery service was appreciated from safety points, Namgay is worried after the failure to deliver. “From beginning it has failed here,” he said.
Many said there is some improvement in terms of essential delivery.
Namgay Wangchuk, another resident said home delivery of groceries was a brilliant initiative.
“Officials from the Task Force and regional heads are even following up on us to check the deliveries and its effectiveness,” he said. However, Namgay Wangchuk said vegetable suppliers didn’t have vegetables other than potatoes, cabbages and carrots.
With more than 80 percent of imports coming via Phuentsholing, many said the country’s economy must be the priority still.
One Phuentsholing resident, Tshering Yeshi said that as the Covid-19 would not go anytime soon, the socio-economic development must not be compromised while battling Covid-19.
“We have to keep fighting and keep running businesses. Otherwise, more than the damage by Covid-19, Bhutan might face an economic disaster.”
Another resident said the lockdown is timely and well managed by the government and the health ministry.
A corporate worker, Tshewang Dema said that people were following the lockdown rules strictly.
“If everyone cooperates, the virus cannot hamper us,” she said. “Staying home is the priority right now. It is serving the nation in the best way possible.”