The increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the region and beyond remains as a matter of deep concern. The COVID-19 taskforce based in Phuentsholing is acutely aware of the serious risks posed by the pandemic for the well being of the people and nation.
Members of the taskforce have shared that they have developed strict containment protocol to mitigate risks. The COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Protocol governs import of all goods. The protocol is comprehensive and prescribes requirements for the driver of the vehicle, unloading areas including the process of unloading and transshipment, handling of documents and cash, use of hand sanitizers, hand washing, use of facemasks, physical distancing, designated holding areas for drivers as well as monitoring and inspection.
In addition, facilities, such as holding areas, washrooms, canteens to purchase food, etc., have been set up. The protocol is strictly implemented at the Mini Dry Port (MDP) and Pasakha Industrial Area in Phuentsholing, including other locations, such as private warehouses, FCB, depots, etc.
Through this mechanism, the members said that the taskforce has been able to facilitate a steady inflow of essential items and other commodities that are indispensable for the people and nation.
To decongest the MDP and to ensure that the protocol is not compromised, multiple unloading and transshipment facilities with strict containment protocols have been identified in Phuentsholing.
“The Protocol has also been shared with other dzongkhags in southern Bhutan for implementation after it has been contextualized to suit local circumstances and requirements,” the members added.
All vehicles and drivers ferrying goods from one part of the country to another via India are escorted by the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) officials and DeSuups to ensure compliance with the containment protocol while in transit.
“The taskforce cannot emphasize enough the imperative for effective compliance and enforcement of the protocol, particularly from the disease prevention perspective. Towards this end, there are designated officials of different agencies on the ground who monitor the compliance on a real time basis. The taskforce carries out regular inspections and advocacy at all sites,” the members stated.
Meanwhile, the taskforce has also instituted an additional oversight mechanism comprising of joint teams from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) who carry out independent monitoring and inspections at all sites.
The observations and recommendations from the team have greatly helped to further strengthen the protocol and also contributed towards ensuring effective compliance. The taskforce has issued a notification on 20 May urging all agencies involved in importing and exporting goods to ensure full and effective implementation and compliance.
“A single lapse or breach of the protocol, whether deliberate or inadvertent, could put the entire nation at risk. Therefore, any lapses or breaches of the protocol are taken seriously and action is taken against the individual,” the members said.
There is no restriction on import of goods, including construction raw materials so long as the importers comply with the containment protocol, a member said, adding that all the importers are required to provide an undertaking stating that they will ensure full compliance with the protocol.