Phuentsholing has been under lockdown for over a month, from 16 January 2022 to 19 February 2022. The first phase of relaxation was carried out on 20 February followed by the second phase of relaxation on 24-27 February.
Likewise, the third phase was carried out from 28 February to 6 March, however, the Southern COVID-19 Task Force (SC19TF) has extended the relaxation till 13 March due to more COVID-19 cases from the community.
As per a notification, from 14 to 20 March all offices can be functional, movement of people and vehicles are allowed and all businesses are allowed till 9 pm.
People are advised to wear masks (N95 recommended). not move unnecessarily and get tested if they have symptoms.Positive cases can isolate at home.
After SC19TF authorized the relaxation of lockdown, the focus is on protecting the people with co-morbid or underlying health conditions and the elderly people. SC19TF is also concerned over the children who are yet to be vaccinated.
Chair of the SC19TF, Sonam Wangyel, said that they will for now focus more on the group of people who are more vulnerable, especially those with underlying health conditions.
SC19TF has almost completed identifying the group of people such underlying health conditions, and is in the process of identifying the unvaccinated people, he added.
He said, “If we find anyone unvaccinated, we will then prioritize them and provide the jab. We will wait for the children’s vaccination till today. The government is working on a modality on how to take care of people with underlying health conditions.”
They are also supporting the elderly people with no proper support system, irrespective of their health condition and COVID-19 status.
The focus has been shifted to those groups of people, for now, he said, adding that, however, it is not that they are being ignorant to other groups of the population. The same SOPs will be followed and implemented irrespective of age or health status.
He said, “In doing so, we did not see much of a challenge as we have enough manpower and resources. We know where to focus, and it is matter of time. However, if they are reluctant to cooperate then that could be a challenge, we foresee. If situation worsens then we might need to shift them into isolation, which would be difficult if they do not want to go.”
Nevertheless, he said that even if they do not want to get shifted to isolation ward, they would still reach out to them anywhere.
Although the people welcome the relaxation, however, SC19TF is worried that the people might avoid wearing the facemask due to the heat in the summer months.
SC19TF remains optimistic by the current practice, and sees no need of lockdowns in future, at least with the Omicron variant due to protection provided by the timely vaccination of the majority of the population.
“Timely vaccination is our savior, and we feel confident that we need not have to impose lockdown. But we do not know what kind of variant may come across in future, and thereby, the future lockdown will depend upon the type of variant,” he added.
All the positive cases and the primary contacts are allowed to stay under home quarantine, and that has helped freeing up the space in quarantine facilities. SC19TF was able to quarantine the students who had to travel to low-risk areas.