Phub Dem 

Quarantining domestic travellers and contacts in dzongkhags and gewogs has become a new normal.

However, for remote gewogs like Gakiling and Sangbaykha in Haa that share close border with high-risk areas like Samtse, where new cases are reported every day, quarantine facility is out of option.

Sangbaykha drungkhag neither has hotels, nor decent government infrastructures that can be used for quarantine purposes.

On February 4, a girl from Phentena, Gakiling, was referred to Dorokha hospital as the gewog was cut off from Haa due to heavy snowfall at Tergola. After being stranded in Dorokha for a month, the family is being quarantined in Dorokha upon request from the gewog.

Neten Zangmo, the patient’s mother, said that although the family could be quarantined at Haa, the process was complicated and her family could not afford it.

Gakiling Gup Wang Tshering said that if the dungkhag has a quarantine centre travellers can directly come to the gewog rather than taking a detour from Dorokha to Samtse to Haa and then to the gewog.

He said that Samgbaykha drungkhag had been directly transshipping goods from Samtse, and there were Covid-19 cases in Dorokha and Samtse, posing risks to the neighbouring gewogs.

However, he said that there was no preparation in the drungkhag. “If there is an outbreak in the drungkhag, there is no place to isolate and quarantine people.”

He said that the gewog proposed the dzongkhag Covid-19 task force to build a ten-bedded quarantine facility which can be used as a isolation centre, but there was no response from the dzongkhag.

Sangbaykha Gup Tobgay said that many residents of his gewog frequently commuted to Sibsoo and Dorokha and undergo quarantine in Thimphu, Paro, or Haa, which was inconvenient for the travellers.

He said that having a quarantine infrastructure at the drungkhag office could address the issue, and it can also be used as an isolation facility if there is an outbreak in the two gewogs.

Wang Tshering said that the journey that takes more than 300 kilometres to reach the gewog after quarantining at Haa could be completed in about 40 kilometres from Dorokha if the travellers could be quarantined in the drungkhag.

He added that the facility would reduce travel time, expenditure and inconveniences along the way.

He added that people tried to illegally move around through the porous border, breaching the Covid protocol as the movement became inconvenient.

The gups decided to propose the issue in the upcoming dzongkhag tshogdu.

Haa dzongdag, Rabgay Tobden, said that the dzongkhag was comfortably quarantining the incoming travellers from Samtse to Sangbaykha drungkhag in Haa and there was no need for infrastructure at the drungkhag.

He added that the final advice has to come from the National Task Force.