Movement of goods in and out of Phuentsholing has opened but with a revised and stringent system.
The trucks driving from Sorchen downwards will be escorted by the Dessups straight to the MDP. Tashi Dorji, Desuup Gojey of Phuentsholing said that in collaboration with Road Safety and Transport Authority they will make sure that the drivers do not get out of the trucks without following the protocols and even before switching the drivers from Sorchen they will make sure that the protocols are followed strictly and with the revised standard operating procedure (SOP) there are even more stringent measures to be followed by the drivers.
According to Home Secretary Sonam Wangyel and Chairman of the Southern COVID task force, the number of trucks importing goods from the other countries will be reduced to 120 per day to reduce the congestion within. He added that reducing the crowd will make a vast difference. The trucks which are not able to transship on the particular day shall spend a night in the MDP but by reducing the number of trucks the chances of having to spend a night in MDP shall be reduced.
“Importers from India used to bring more than 120 trucks since there was no limit set for the incoming trucks and at the same time hundreds of Bhutanese trucks from the North to transship the goods came to the MDP. The MDP is a compact space and so we are reducing the crowd for people’s security.”
There are two modes while transporting the goods from MDP to other parts of the country. One is at the Sorchen station, through the driver exchange mode where drivers coming from the north are not allowed to enter Phuentsholing and local drivers take charge of the trucks while drivers from the north take over from Sorchen supervised by the Royal Bhutan Police and the other mode is drivers from the North crossing Sorchen to the MDP under the escort of Desuup.
As per the recommendation from the Prime Minister from 15th of May 2021 the task force will start to register local drivers and once the system is introduced the drivers will not be allowed to go home and shall be kept in a separate place as a precautionary measure known as self contained mode (SCM). The drivers under SCM shall be under strict supervision by desuups and Royal Bhutan Police.
The drivers will be kept in different locations so that the COVID transmission among the drivers can be reduced. At the moment there are 138 loaders in MDP which shall also be reduced as per the new system which is yet to be implemented.
Minister of Economic Affairs, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that since most of the goods are imported from India the most affected country, it is risky but still than it cannot be compromised because the market will start hoarding but he added that it is good that the goods are transshipped from MDP, as had it been transported directly to Sorchen the country will probably have more community transmission.
“If the goods stop people will start panicking and the cost prices will increase, we know the risk but we cannot close the MDP as well since it will have market distortion. Of course people are following the protocols but due to the volumes of vehicles arriving in MDP people might have become complacent on the protocols, but I hope the situation will improve after the change in system and I am very sorry that some of the drivers have tested positive but at the same time we are very grateful that loaders, drivers and task forces are working in such risky area for the wellbeing of the country,” said Lyonpo.