Neten Dorji | Bartsham

With their heads almost kissing their knees, three women are busy in a potato field in Bartsham, Trashigang. There is enough distance between them, about three meters or more.

It is not the weed that is distancing them, but the awareness on the importance of social distancing. The women are engrossed. They talk about the weed, the weather and the new coronavirus.

The weeding season is coming to an end. Potato yield will depend on how much farmers can uproot the weeds that compete with the tuber that is both a cash and food crop. Most farmers are done with the weeding. There are not many people out in the fields.

Host Dorji Wangmo said the gewog officials came and told them to keep enough distance between them while working in the fields. “Most of us work with a maximum of three people in the fields. We keep hearing it on the television,” she said.

Above the potato fields, carrying a spade, Jigme Yangden, is on her way to her fields. She becomes inquisitive and questions a visitor to the village. “We want to be safe and has to be aware of new comers in the village,” she said.

Another villager, Cheki Dema said they are following instructions of health officials and awareness programmes they saw on the national TV. They have restricted their movement. She said villagers buy essential from shops in the locality and had cut down trips to Trashigang town.

Villagers are busy with their daily work. Mothers with their children are tending to cattle, construction works are going on as usual and shops remain open.

Tshering Euden, a mother of two said that after she heard of Covid- 19 outbreak, parents started taking extra care of their children. “I don’t see much children loitering around villages,” she said.

Chawmo, 63, of Zortshing said that they are also aware of fake news. “There was a rumour saying the virus is carried by the wind and everybody would be affected. We found out that it was fake,” she said.

A farmer, Sonam Dhendrup said that they don’t see many new faces in the locality but they questioned when they encounter new people. “We are told to report to authority if we see new people coming in the village,” he said. Many believe that the disease could be brought to the village by a newcomer.

Meanwhile, some villager stocked rice and essential after they heard the boarder gates were sealed. “Apart from essentials like cooking oil and salt, I think we will be fine with what we grow here,” said a villager, Sonam Dorji. “It was a relief to hear that essentials will not be a problem.”