Mass screening initiated in order to determine the way forward for Phuentsholing Thromde (Photo Courtesy:MOH)

Why COVID-19 cases are on the rise despite several lockdowns in Phuentsholing

There are new positive cases of COVID-19 being detected in Phuentsholing Thromde everyday. According to the Home Secretary and Chairman of the Southern COVID-19 Task Force, Sonam Wangyel, and one of the reasons for the rise could be because of the porous border with India, making it easy for people to trespass and also be involved in illegal activities.

He also said that not all the people in Phuentsholing showed up for screening during the last COVID-19 mass testing. The import and export of commodities are still happening across the border. Such situations leave Phuentsholing vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.

The sporadic cases are contained in red buildings, which are sealed and no movement of people are allowed within the premise. However, there have been cases of breach of protocol where people with COVID-19 have spread the disease to other tenants in the red buildings.

Phuentsholing Thromde has started the mass testing in Mega Zone III on Thursday, and after that the mass testing will be conducted in Mega Zone I followed by Mega Zone II. The mass testing will also be done for children above five years old. In the mass testing of 4,000 people in Mega Zone III all have come out negative so far.

Mega Zone I boundary is from Doti Khola towards Samtse side, in between Kharbandi gate and Doti Khola is Mega zone II which is the core area of the Phuentsholing Thromde that falls under Mega zone II, and beyond the Kharbandi gate towards Pasakha is Mega Zone III, which consists of other zones too.

The Mega Zone II has the maximum number of positive cases detected so far. If the results from the mass testing in all zones turn out good then Phuentsholing Thromde will relax the lockdown. If the results are somewhat ok, the restrictions will be further imposed, and if the result is bad then Phuentsholing Thromde will be placed under further lockdown.

Southern COVID-19 Task Force hopes every individual will be screened during the mass testing, which will really help with the prevention and control COVID-19.

“We are hoping that there will not be any positive cases, but if people continue to avoid coming for testing, which is still possible, then there will be a residue. And this will be a never ending problem,” said Sonam Wangyel.

According to Dr Sonam Wangchuk of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), the spread of COVID-19 or outbreak in the community can be stopped if the people follow the protocols.

He added, “Phuentsholing Thromde is detecting one or two positive cases everyday, and the maximum are primary contacts. It shows there is a mixing of people. If people do not follow the lockdown protocols then positive cases will keep getting detected in the Phuentsholing.”

He said the people should go out only if it is absolutely necessary because the virus is not fully eliminated in the Phuentsholing Thromde, and everybody is to be treated as a source of COVID-19.

For now, the team is not able to figure out the source of infection because people are not being honest as none of the infected people are willing to share the truth, he said.

Now the virus is detected in multiple places. Just because a few people are not following the protocols, the entire population is suffering. Despite strict measures and protocols, there are still cases being detected.

“During the first lockdown, people were worried and followed the lockdown protocol very seriously, but now people are showing fatigue. However, the NI-TAG team has been advising people that even if they are vaccinated, one cannot prevent getting the infection, and should know that they can be a potential source to the un-protected people,” said Dr Sonam Wangchuk.

He said the cases being detected are within the circle of primary contacts that have tested positive for COVID-19. The only concern is that the outbreak should not go beyond the community, he added.

The health ministry has also sent some of the COVID-19 positive case samples for genome sequencing. The results have yet to come. The suspicion is that the new Indian origin Variant of coronavirus B.1.617 or Delta  is the cause of the spread this time around.

With regard to reinfections, there have been no cases of any recovered COVID-19 patients getting re-infected. However, there is a possibility of getting re-infected, but with less severity.

Meanwhile, all the positive patients are doing fine and the recovery rate is 100 percent. There is also no problem in managing the patients for now. As of June 8, there are 48 COVID-19 patients in Phuentsholing.

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