Not many are following directives, say officials

Neten Dorji | Trashigang

When washing hands with soap and water is not a habit and maintaining physical distance, a new concept, people visiting Trashigang town are having a difficult time to adjust to the measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Officials are monitoring the town ensuring people wash their hands before entering a shop or a restaurant and keep distance when inside.

Having mostly to deal with villagers, an official said it is difficult to convince the villagers who greet us with blank faces when told about the new rule. “I was accused of being rude while telling them to wash their hands.”

He said there were also people who were aware of the safety measures, but not following it at public places. “Forget villagers, even educated people hardly follow the preventive measures despite repetitive advocacy in the media,” he added.

Shopkeepers have marked lines to indicate safe distance and installed temporary wash stations.

Tenzin Wangmo, a hotelier said, she had made safe distance marks with red lines and kept chairs one meter apart at her restaurant. “Customers mostly villagers are not aware, but when told, they follow the preventive measures.”

Town resident said villagers are easier to deal with than the so-called educated one. “While farmers follow instructions of officials on duty, some civil servants are making fun of it,” she said. “Sometimes, they are forming group and officials on duty also join them.”

Loday, 38 from Udzorong said he keeps forgetting the instructions even though he understands why officials are telling them to keep distance or wash hands.  “Our old habits is the biggest challenge,” he said.

Meanwhile, the old debate of private vehicles carrying passengers have resurfaced with taxis following the two-passenger rule strictly and taxi drivers accusing private of not following the rule.

Taxi drivers in Trashigang claimed that with private vehicles carrying more than two, the rule has affected them. “It is not fair to allow private vehicles to carry more people and restrict taxi drivers,” said a taxi driver, Ugyen Phuntsho.

Another taxi driver said there are no clear directives from the government. “When we ask officials, they say taxis are public transport, but private vehicles also run as public carrier charging fares,” he said.

Meanwhile, Trashigang dzongkhag administration has notified all civil servants in the dzongkhag to lead by example in their effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“We are receiving complaints that our civil servants are roaming in the town in groups and violating the preventive measures of Covid-19,” states a notification, signed by Senior Dzongrab.

It also states that, as educated people, dzongkhag administration is expected to do more than the public by practising handwashing and taking other precautionary measures.