Nima | Gelephu

Almost a week into the third phase of relaxation, residents of Gelephu started coming out only from March 7 when vaccination for children aged 5 to 11 started.

Businesses in the thromde that remained completely closed for the past two months are also opening up slowly and cautiously.

The third phase of relaxation was announced on March 1, allowing movement within the green zones in Gelephu thromde.

With people coming out only for evening walks, Gelephu town is empty during the day.

A resident, Sonam Lhamo, said she came out of home only to buy essentials.

“I did not move outside much in the past months. Staying home was the best way.”

She said that everyone should be mindful of the shortcomings in our health facilities. “I am not sure if we have enough capacity to handle the case while unlocking.”

While movement for private vehicles is restricted, few vehicles use the roads away from the checkpoints.

Construction activities are allowed in containment mode. Task force officials monitor the transportation of raw materials.

Only those requiring medical service and having difficulty walking called for taxis to date. There were not much of people booking taxis to move around, according to a taxi driver.

Residents claimed it is time to focus on economy recovery.

Ugyen from Gelephu said that the people were well aware of the virus and the use of masks and safety protocols improved since the outbreaks in Sarpang.

“There was an uncontrolled crowd at vaccination centre. We could have gone for more centre,” he said.

He also said it was important to unlock and focus on the economy recovery after the vaccination.

“Globally, unvaccinated and those with comorbidities are at high risk. But, if we continue to live like this, our resources would be drained out,” Ugyen said. “As it is, we are not known for working hard. The pandemic made us more relaxed. We need to work on saving the economy and livelihood.”

He added that exploring home quarantine measures and strictly implementing safety protocols in workplaces is the way forward.

“Our health facility might get overwhelmed if we have more people with comorbidities. But, Bhutanese are usually strong. Having an adequate isolation facility would also help us,” said Ugyen.

Town residents also suggested decongesting the core town area in Namkhaling demkhong, the only yellow zone in Gelephu.

Most of the business and financial service centres are located in the core town.

“Town becomes the meeting point. We need to take financial service to other areas. This would reduce the crowd in the town. We have to make gathering points spacious,” said a resident.

Meanwhile, people residing in the Namkhaling zone are pressing for relaxation as movement is allowed only within the zone.  Only identified shops are open. Movement in and out of the zone is restricted currently.

The relaxation in Namkhaling is expected within few days, according to the officials from the task force.

Sarpang dzongkhag task force also lifted the 1802 toll-free number that handled essential service delivery and assisted the travel for those stranded during the lockdown in the dzongkhag yesterday.

Sarpang reported 95 new cases yesterday.