Mini dry port in Phuentsholing seen as a risk area

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

With the border sealed, the government is tasked with ensuring the continuous supply of essential goods through Phuentsholing and avoiding the risk of Covid-19 from transporters entering the country.

Essentials arrive in Indian trucks to the mini dry port in Phuentsholing. The Indian drivers who drive the containers and trailers, clearing agent staffs and customs officials are the primary people involved at the mini dry port. The drivers are seen as potential carriers.

As a prevention measure, officials are working on safety measures at the mini dry port to prevent Covid-19 enter from the port.

During his three-day visit to Phuentsholing, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that a system that will ensure no physical contacts (touch) between those people involved in transferring essential goods at the port should be established.

Lyonchhen visited the dry port twice during his visit.

On his first visit on March 22, the customs team was asked to barricade the area from where the drivers would not be allowed to cross further. One of the resting places at the port was converted to a distribution centre where the Indian truckers would be allowed to keep documents in the respective clearing agent’s unit. Clearing agents would take up the documents from the respective trays and do the necessary works at the customs office.

However, after the Prime Minister’s second visit yesterday, it was suggested that there should be a counter before the distribution centre and a customs official would receive all the documents from the drivers at the counter maintaining a distance and take it to the distribution centre. The customs official will also brief all the drivers about Covid-19 and safety measures.

Custom officials were busy constructing the counter yesterday evening. The clearing agents, functioning from two clustered rooms were provided five rooms with each agent maintaining a metre’s gap.

Meanwhile, with the gate sealed at the border town, there were confusions among many businessmen if it was just the essential goods allowed. Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji announced that shopkeepers could continue to import goods as usual from their suppliers across the border as there is no restriction on movement of goods.

Some trailers with edible items had entered the commercial town yesterday. A bolero pickup had also come into the port with health ministry’s consignment of hand gloves, hand sanitisers, and face masks.

Yesterday, the drivers were not allowed to move from their trucks and mix with other people.

Meanwhile, until 4pm yesterday, Phuentsholing has quarantined 628 people in different quarantine centres. Three buses were also sent to Bagdogra to pick up 116 Bhutanese. About 676 labourers also exited Phuentsholing.

The government has announced that almost all the Bhutanese living across the border moved to Phuentsholing. The government assured support to those who still want to shift.