As one of the potential sources of Covid-19 infection, Paro international airport came under scrutiny during the outbreak in December last year.
Lapses and lack of stringent protocols at the airport were linked to the outbreak that triggered the second nationwide lockdown
Following the incident, several reviews and investigations were conducted at the airport. In a recent assessment conducted by the national inspection team, it was found that the majority of the safety protocols were in place and followed.
A concern raised on several occasions was the entry of private vehicles inside the airport to receive and drop passengers, thereby increasing the risk of transmission of the virus into the community.
During the inspection it was observed that private vehicles were strictly prohibited to enter or park inside the landing bay and staff were also not allowed to drive their personal vehicles.
All crew members including ground and health staff, and drivers were placed in separate containment centres for a month on a rotation basis.
Luggage were not sent through conveyor belts but lined up in the bay to be picked up by the passengers before they boarded into the designated buses and left for respective quarantine or isolation facilities. Luggage was effectively disinfected while moving it out of the aircraft.
Adequate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) were also observed to be in place, and police and de-suups on duty were seen ensuring no outsiders were allowed inside the facility.
However, besides the compliance to the protocols, some risk behaviours were also observed during the inspection conducted on May 5.
It was found that passengers and de-suups got very close to each other while picking up luggage and boarding the buses. The investigation team recommended the use of a megaphone or loud speaker to inform the passengers about transportation and location of the quarantine facilities including the dos and don’ts inside the facilities.
People were also seen crowding on arrival at the quarantine facilities. It was also found that no prior information was released to passengers on room allocation at the quarantine facilities.
The team also recommended that no delivery van should be allowed inside the quarantine facilities and all essential items must be dropped till the gate from where de-suups would deliver it to the facilities.
Meanwhile, it was observed that the process of transporting passengers from the airport to quarantine facilities was enhanced and strictly followed during the inspection.
Lapses in transporting passengers and unmonitored vehicle and driver movement were said to be major reasons for the past outbreak. Officials said that this time all the standard operating procedures were in place.
“All the drivers transporting the passengers remained in the vehicle at all times and went to the containment facility until the next assignment on a 14-day shift basis,” said an official from the inspecting team, adding that all buses and vehicles used were disinfected as per the existing protocol.
Weekly antigen testing and RT-PCR after completing the 14-day shift were also strictly followed, said the official.
By Younten Tshedup
Edited by Tshering Palden