After more than 100 days under lockdown, the residents in Phuentsholing have ensured that the chain of COVID-19 transmission is broken. They have endured the confinement in their apartments so that the COVID-19 protocols are followed diligently.
Without their cooperation and understanding, the people in other dzongkhags would not have lived COVID-19 free days.
Phuentsholing Thrompon, Uttar Kumar Rai, said nobody predicted that the COVID-19 situation in Phuentsholing would last for so long. The economy has really gone down, but when it comes to the public, they have cooperated even though they have suffered, especially the people without any income.
The Thrompon thanked the residents for the sacrifices made. “The public cooperation and support received is beyond expectation,” he added.
Phuentsholing, being the biggest economic hub, has to serve the entire 20 dzongkhags. Had the people of Phuentsholing not cooperated then the situation might have gone beyond control and worsened, and that could have also interrupted the chain of goods being supplied to the other dzongkhags.
The people in other dzongkhags must also understand that all the essentials goods were supplied without any interruption although the people in Phuentsholing suffered a lot, said the Thrompon.
Despite trying hard to improve the situation in the city, Phuentsholing people had to suffer many problems, as the city is very crowded due to the limited inbuilt infrastructure. Even as the number of COVID-19 cases increased, there are not many quarantine facilities to isolate the patients. The hotels are mixed with the resident quarters, and that is one of reasons for the surging positive cases in the core areas.
Another reasons for COVID-19 case increase is the porous border, which is hard to watch and guard at all times.
The Thrompon observed that it is easy for fatigue to weigh down the same people, the same frontliners and the task force members, on duty and serving for more than a year. This leaves the room for complacency despite putting in 100 percent effort.
In the same context, even for residents of Phuentsholing, when the first lockdown happened, people were scared of the disease and became cautious. But as the disease and situation extended for a year, people are no longer as scared, and are even daring enough to sneak out to get the basic necessities, like food and other goods. This is one of the reasons for the spread of the disease in Phuentsholing, added the Thrompon.
An upcoming issue is that people in Phuentsholing want to go to other dzongkhags, but cannot leave because there are not enough quarantine facilities in Phuentsholing and other dzongkhags as well.
Similarly, there are several challenges in the city. The affected low-income group has become poorer, and the students are hindered due to the interruption in the academic year. Everything has worsened including developments in the city, said the Thrompon.
Currently, there is no new community case reported in the past few days. The Thrompon said there might be a few undetected cases, and if people can cooperate for a little more time, then maybe, the unidentified COVID-19 cases could be detected.
Tshering Dorji, a Kidu recipient, has been living in the settlement in Toorsa right after the COVID-19 cases were detected in the country. He raised concern over the movement cards. He said he has never seen the movement cards, and he has no idea why the people were not provided with the cards.
People living in the settlement shared that they feel suffocated and confined inside the four walls, even when everything is brought at their doorsteps.
Another problem he raised was that earlier FCB used to provide all the groceries and vegetables at a fixed price, but recently, the supply work was given to retail business owners charging double the price. He said it would help if an investigation can be done on the matter, as there will be many people who have slept on empty stomachs.
However, he said all the people living in the settlement are thankful to the His Majesty The King for providing the affected families with a safe place to live in.
The Thrompon clarified that people living in the settlement near Toorsa are in a self-containment zone, and they are only free to walk within their compounds, so they were not given movement cards. In the other areas, the people are supposed to move within their sub-zone with their movement cards.
The reason for imposing the strict rules is because lots of people are living in the settlement, and if one of them gets infected then all of them will get infected, so that is why the police, army, DeSuups, and tshogpas are guarding the area.
Similarly, Sonam Yangden, one of the Phuentsholing residents, who runs a hotel said lockdowns have really affected her business badly. She has had to survive on just rice and lentil soup for days.
She said most of her hotel rooms are filled with temporary tenants, and they did not have anything left to eat, so whatever she had in her house, was distributed amongst them. She said it is a very difficult phase for everyone.
Another resident, Sushma Tamang, said many people suffered during the lockdowns, but thankfully running a small grocery shop really helped her. She was given a chance to open up her shop, and she could deliver essential items during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Thrompon said after the construction of 400-bedded quarantine in Phuentsholing is complete, there might not be anymore lockdowns in Phuentsholing. This is because the quarantine facilities will be far away from the town, and the moment positive cases are detected, the patients can be sent to the new quarantine center. Phuentsholing might see the new normal only then.
“People should also understand now that it is very necessary to have a habit of saving,” the Thrompon added.
Phuentsholing is in the first phase of unlocking, and phase II will be happening on 3rd August. After which the Phase III will be done in a controlled manner. Currently, there are 50 COVID-19 patients in the RIGGS isolation center.