Six customs officers and three referral patients had tested positive in Kolkata according to the Consul General Thinley Wangchuk.
The CG said that the customs officers had tested positive around two weeks ago. He said one of them was more serious and required hospitalization but he has now stabilized and is back in self quarantine.
The CG said the other customs officers are also in self quarantine though some of them recently tested negative again.
Apart from the customs officers the CG said that three Bhutanese referral patients sent from Thimphu also tested positive and they are currently under quarantine.
The Consulate which has around 10 staff is currently closed as people work from home, but the CG said that staff who have to come to office can come to the consulate.
The CG said that customs officers do not come under the Consulate and have different offices in Tivoli court where there are around 13 or 14 of them.
Given that all third country imports come via Kolkata the customs officials facilitate the imports by doing the documentation and paper work. The local agents do the actual physical work of moving the consignments but when government consignments come in the customs officers themselves have to go to the dock making them vulnerable.
The CG said that the Consulate staff only go for COVID checks if they have symptoms otherwise they do not go for tests.
There are currently around 50 Bhutanese patients and their family members or escorts in Kolkata undergoing treatment in the hospitals there.
This is in the backdrop of a test positivity rate of 45 to 55 percent in Kolkata which means that 45 to 55 people of every 100 people getting tested are coming out positive.
This is matter of concern as the most likely source of the second COVID-19 outbreak was a 27th November 2020 flight form Kolkata carrying referral patients and some customs officials, where the majority of the flight passengers including a pilot turned positive.
The CG said that only patients who are symptomatic undergo COVID-19 tests before leaving for Bhutan otherwise they are tested on arrival Paro. He said those who test positive in Kolkata are kept back.
The CG said in the case of the 27th November 2020 flight it is more likely the patients and custom officers got infected in the airport or on the plane.
The CG said now with the elections over in West Bengal there is every possibility that there may be some state level lockdowns or even a national lockdown. He said the city is already under a partial lockdown.
He said that there are not many Bhutanese living in Kolkata and if one included the students, STCBL, BBPL staff they would not number more than 10.
Given the high positivity rate in Kolkata and the government still sending referral patients there it will be important for necessary precautions to be taken.
Recently of the 30 Bhutanese who came from the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Delhi around 26 had tested positive.