Nganglam Dungkhag

NC19TF doing away with quarantine for drivers led to virus spread in Nganglam

The small town of Nganglam, with around 5,000 people, has had 249 cases of COVID-19, which comes to an average of one in every 20 people in the town testing positive.

There is fear, and also anger, among the local residents there who feel such high numbers would not be reported, if better measures had been put in place.

The Pemagatshel Dzongda and the Incident Commander for the Dzongkhag, Yeshi Rangrik Dorjee, said that the main source of the outbreak in Nganglam is from truck drivers ferrying essential commodities from places, like Phuentsholing.

He said this is because the hot spot for the cases has been from a place called Borkatsang, which reported the maximum cases. He said it is an area where mostly drivers stay.

After the second lockdown, measures had been put in place by the National COVID-19 Task Force (NC19TF) for drivers driving between high risk areas to work in containment.

However, some time in October 2021, NC19TF removed this need for containment for drivers ferrying goods between high-risk places.

A few months later Omicron struck, and the cases have been on the rise in Nganglam since then.

It is thought that the cases were brought in by drivers infected in Phuentsholing or other places.

There is also anger among local residents on why a lockdown was not put in place when the very first case was detected.

On 18 January, an 18-year old girl traveling from Nganglam tested positive in Panbang. Before her journey, she had dinner with her father and two drivers who all work at FCB. 

A Nganglam resident, on the condition of anonymity, said, “By then cases in Phuentsholing was surging, and the drivers were supposed to operate in self-containment mode, but they were just let go by the Dungkhag COVID-19 Task Force.”

It is suspected that the virus must have started circulating in Nganglam from then onwards itself.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) team contact traced 27 close contacts of the girl in Nganglam.

This was followed by a frontliner testing positive on 21 January, and with another frontliner testing positive on 29 January.

Here again, a local resident said that the lockdown should have been done much earlier than 30 January as these are additional indications of the virus circulating.

The Dzongda said that the lockdown was not done earlier, as the girl’s contacts had been traced. He said a lockdown is done when it is felt that they cannot determine the source and the contacts, and it may have spread wider.

In the case of the frontliners, he said the 21 January frontliner was working in quarantine mode, while the frontliner testing positive on 29 January was a contact of an earlier frontliner, and was in home quarantine when he was found to be positive.

The Dzongda denied there was any climate of fear as he said the lockdown is going well and people are cooperating very well, and he said, on the virus they are guided by experts like the Technical Advisory Group.

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