Photo: Riku Dhan Subba

Facilitating routine travelers and stranded people is more challenging than managing the COVID-19 situation: Samtse Dzongda

Samtse has more than 200 active COVID-19 cases since 18 January to today. Of the total active cases, 23 are frontliners. There are 17 positive patients with comorbidity who have been referred to the Phuentsholing COVID-19 hospital. However, no patients were referred to other districts due to lack of space in quarantine facilities.

The remaining positive patients are put under in an isolation facility in the Samtse hospital. The primary contacts of the patients from the cluster villages are put under community quarantine, and so far, the situation has been comfortably managed. The primary contacts in the scattered settlement are brought to the designated quarantine facilities.

Samtse Dzongda and Incident Commander, Passang Dorji, said that the situation is under control. For now, there is no shortage of quarantine facilities, and if the need arises, there is the capacity to accommodate more than 500 primary contacts and around 300 positive cases.

Nevertheless, he said, “We do not want to undermine the situation, whereby, we are still exploring the possibility to have more quarantine facilities. In addition, we are constructing 100 bedded quarantine facilities in Samtse, which are expected to be complete within a month’s time.”

Meanwhile, he said that managing the COVID-19 situation in the district is not an issue, but having to manage and facilitate the stranded people and routine travelers is the biggest challenge.

He said that there are a very few people who actually got stranded, if one goes by the technical definition. But the routine travelers who come to visit their family, who come for business purpose and who come for vacations is very huge, he said.

“This time, despite various facilities provided by the Election Commission of Bhutan, around a thousand people have come here to vote in the Third LG Election. So, it is challenging for us to facilitate everyone,” he added.

Samtse coordinates and checks on the availability of quarantine facilities in other districts, so that the travel plans can be made accordingly. He further said that when they review a daily report, the maximum issue is with regard to facilitating the travelers, and everyone seems to jot down a reason to get out at the earliest time possible.

People travel unnecessarily despite the treat of the pandemic, and there are people who repeatedly avail themselves of the quarantine services, he said.

According to the Dzongda, since the outbreak of the first case in the country, Samtse has facilitated more than 19,000 people, which has taken a lot of time and resources.     

Samtse district is prudent with the use of its resources as the coronavirus spread is a real threat and we do not want to take any risk.

“We are very vigilant, in terms of stopping the virus from spreading to the other districts,” the Dzongda said. Samtse is one of the high-risk districts, and so, even during the normal days with no community outbreak, a person is made to undergo 7 days mandatory quarantine. This is one of the precautions taken to stop the spread of virus, he said.

He added, “As of now, no single case has gone out of the district, and with detection of positive cases in the district, we are more vigilant and the surveillance has been enhanced.” 

The testing for frontliners, high-risk group are carried out on a fortnightly basis, as per the enhanced protocol surveillance, while the testing of communities/ individuals during the outbreak is carried out as per the quarantine and testing protocol of the health ministry’s protocol.

As of now, the red cluster in Samtse consists of Pugli, Gomtu and Ngatshang villages, and the area is cordoned off with frontliners deployed to safeguard it.  

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