Figures Source: (Last Updated on 28 July 2020)

Bhutan surrounded by COVID-19 cases along its 699 km border with India

With increasing cases of smugglers and people crossing the international boundary of Bhutan with India, there is a huge and growing risk of community transmission coming in Bhutan via a person who gets across undetected but carries the virus.

Bhutan shares its boundary with four Indian states starting from Sikkim with 32 km bordering Haa, West Bengal with 183 km bordering Haa, Samtse and Chukha, followed by Assam with 267 km bordering Sarpang, Zhemgang, Nganglam and Samdrup Jongkhar and finally Arunachal Pradesh with 217 km bordering Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang and Trashiyangtze.

This means that nine of Bhutan’s 20 districts adjoin the four Indian states that all have COVID-19 cases.

However, the bad news does not end there as these 9 Dzongkhags also adjoin the very districts within these states that have active COVID-19 cases as of 28th July.

Sikkim which until recently was celebrated as the only Indian state with no COVID-19 cases and was the first to impose a travel ban against Bhutanese visitors now has 473 COVID-19 cases of which 338 are active cases.

West Bengal has 60,830 cases of which there are 19,502 active cases. Within West Bengal three districts that adjoin Bhutan are; Kalimpong with 82 total cases and 18 active cases; Jalpaiguri with 1,188 cases and 416 active cases; and Alipurduar with 269 cases and 52 active cases. Some of these active cases are in Jaigaon.

Assam which had initially seen very low cases has seen a spurt in the last couple of months. It now has a total of 33,577 cases with 8,085 active cases.

Assam has four districts that adjoin Bhutan. These are Kokrajhar with 336 cases and 106 active cases; Chirang with 87 cases and 16 active cases; Baksa with 314 cases and 123 active cases and ; Udalguri with 370 cases and 108 active cases.

Arunachal Pradesh which like Sikkim also started with very low numbers has seen a major spurt as well with 1,239 cases and 662 active cases.

Of this two districts that border Bhutan are West Kameng with 33 total cases and 2 active cases and Tawang with 27 cases and 26 active cases.

In comparison as of 28th July Bhutan has only 99 total cases with only 13 active cases and 86 being recovered.

Also unlike Bhutan’s neighbors, Bhutan cases are all imported cases with the first two being tourists and the rest 97 being detected in quarantine after coming from abroad.

Though there is no official acknowledgement yet all the neighboring Indian districts show clear signs of community transmission not only in terms of numbers but also in the fact that people do not know from where they got the virus.

Another worrying factor is that India is still one of the major countries in the world that is testing among the least compared to others. India is number three in the global COVID-19 count and is increasing seen as the next global hotspot but out of the top 10 COVID-19 countries India’s tests the second lowest at 11,173 tests per million with only Mexico being lower.

While the overall death rates in India like in the rest of Asia has remained low compared to other parts of the world a troubling sign for India is the consistent increase in both COVID-19 cases and also deaths. So while the percentage maybe low the actual overall deaths numbers will start going up.

India is fast approaching the 50,000 daily cases case load with data on Friday showing 49,310 new cases with new highs almost every day. This means that India is still far away from a peak.

A recent random sampling of 21,387 people in Delhi had some troubling numbers as it found around 23.48 percent of people in Delhi had the virus suggesting the actual numbers are far higher than the so far 1 percent of Delhi’s population that has been officially detected to have the virus.

Bhutan will need to keep its guard up along its borders until a vaccine or cure is found.

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