Two positive cases from Mega Zone 1 yesterday

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

It is the 81st day today since Phuentsholing went under the third lockdown on April 17.

Although Mega Zones 1 and 3 have been given some relaxations, Mega Zone 2, which also includes the core town area, where a majority of the business entities are, is still under lockdown.

Even though relaxations were given after the third mass screening, more restrictions have come at Mega Zone 2 starting July 3.

The movement of only one person from each household as per the zone is allowed with a movement card.

Movement of people from Mega Zone 2 to Mega Zones 1 and 3 is not allowed. Only designated shops are allowed to open from 8am to 6pm.

And despite this long and arduous journey into the lockdown, community cases are still emerging.

Recently, 20 positive cases were reported from Pemaling—about 13 of the total were from the area close to Chinese Lane of Jaigaon.

The opening of Mega Zone 2, so, had been further reduced.


What now?

Can a complete lockdown help clean up or break the transmission chain in Phuentsholing’s Mega Zone 2? Many say it could.

One of the residents, Namgay Dorji, said that there must be a complete lockdown if the government is to contain the outbreak.

“Efficient service delivery should be allowed, however.”

He added: “Export-import also has to be reduced. We have enough essential goods. And boulder export is also a problem. I saw that the trucks were not closing their windows.”

Phuentsholing could take a long time to bounce back as an important economic hub.

“The government should provide a specific and particular relief scheme for Phuentsholing,” Namgay Dorji said. “Our biggest problem is the house rents.”

Namgay Dorji said that everyone should be given a “Covid-19 test certificate. There are people hiding away from Covid-19 test.”

“This is because most of the offices, business establishments and all financial institutions are in the Mega Zone 2,” a resident said, adding that it would be meaningless to open the zone when shop owners are located in other zones.

He also said that many who came to open the shops in Mega Zone 2 were stuck. Kuensel learnt that several people had gone to Mega Zone 2 after the relaxation (one time movement to Mega Zone 2) but they are now stuck because the zone is detecting more positive cases.

A grocery store owner said that he and his staff had to rent a flat in Mega Zone 2. “But we are not allowed to move. If we are not going to get the pass, the authorities must tell us, so that we can return home.”

There are others who think otherwise.

A resident, Nar Bahadur, said lockdowns had not worked so far. If there is a plan for another complete lockdown, he said the entire Phuentsholing must be put under lockdown and another round of mass screening conducted.

“The entire movement should be stopped, starting from MDP to Thimphu-bound essentials.”

“Otherwise, there will still be leakage. People from areas where there are no positive cases are frustrated. I think people who are not under the red clusters or red buildings must be allowed to move. They will not have reasons to complain then.”

A grocery shop owner said: “I think a complete lockdown of seven days, followed by thorough mass screening is required. And any citizen failing to come forward for the test should be asked to pay for RT-PCR. Today, the town under partial lockdown has become a burden as all the shops are not allowed to open, except the groceries and medical shops, which is resulting in financial burden to the business holders.”

Due to the risks, he said that identified delivery shops in Mega Zone 2 must be issued vehicle movement cards along with passengers’ name and CID number to track the misuse of the permit.

“We would be grateful if the BCCI came up with plans to help the needy business establishments and represent our problems to the Task Force.”

There are other problems people are facing in Mega Zone 2.

Kuensel learnt that recently an employee with one of the medical shops tested negative in an antigen test at a flu clinic. She had all the symptoms. But she was let to go and she returned to her shop. She and her four colleagues stayed in the shop for more than 24 hours before they were taken to the quarantine facility.

Along with her, two more women, including a frontline worker, had started showing symptoms at the shop. They tested positive when taken to the quarantine facility.

“This clearly indicates that the flu clinic results can be false. If there are symptoms, they should be further examined,” a resident said.

Tashi now hates to hear the word “lockdown”. She has had enough of it. “I want to go out of Phuentsholing for the time being but cannot do that because we are in the red zone, in Mega Zone 2.”

She thinks rules do not apply the same way for all. “That’s the problem. I have the proof. We have taken pictures of that happening. How is it even allowed to happen?”

Meanwhile, travel of all the registered people from Mega Zone 1 has been temporarily closed.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk