With the daily surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the neighboring states of India, residents of Phuentsholing are requested to follow the COVID-19 protocols diligently.
It has been around 80 days since Phuentsholing had the last community case on August 12, 2020. Southern COVID-19 Task Force (SC19TF) Member Rixin Jamtsho said Phuentsholing has not detected positive cases so far because neighboring Indian states are not reporting many positive cases comparatively as one of the reasons. He said if they have a surge of COVID cases, then Phuentsholing is likely to detect positive cases.
Another reason is that within the country also, there are strong guidelines and COVID-19 protocols. In the past, the frontliners were not much aware of the importance of face masks and they were not given enough face masks and so they used cloth face masks. Now it is compulsory to wear surgical face masks by all the frontliners and they have 100 percent compliance by the frontliners, and not less than 95 percent compliance by the general public in Phuentsholing.
Face masks are one of the most important preventive measures next to hand washing and physical distancing. Even at the hospital, they have put up a lot of preventive measures like it is compulsory for everyone to wash hands at the entrance and face masks are important. Enough Dessups are deployed in the hospital to monitor the physical distance, SC-19TF member Rixin Jamtsho added.
Almost 93 percent of the population in Phuentsholing are vaccinated and Phuentsholing people are almost immune to the coronavirus. The vaccination is still going on. Even if there is an outbreak in Jaigaon and in other neighboring states of India, COVID-19 should not be coming into Bhutan as they have a very good monitoring system in-place and they have also strengthened the infection team in Phuentsholing.
Rixin said in order to prevent the crowding in the hospital, a satellite clinic was established in Pasakha because most of the patients are from there. With this, Phuentsholing hospital has been decongested a lot.
Talking about the compliance, all the agencies like government, corporations and private business entities have signed the undertaking letter that they would ensure that they follow the safety protocols. In that way, they are hopeful that they will be able to keep zero community cases here, said Rixin.
The Task Force members are also monitoring the situation every day and seeing the number of cases and deaths in India. “We are bothered especially when there are cases from Assam and West Bengal. Assam did not have many cases reported but in the last few days, cases have started rising. There are risks but we are keeping all our frontliners vigilant and we are reminding the public,” said SC-19TF member.
He said they are on watch, if the number increases in the nearby places like Jaigaon, Cooch Behar and Alipurduar then import and export needs to be controlled. Hopefully, that will not happen because the cases are rising in Kolkata and other places quite far away from Bhutan.
They have also been conducting COVID-19 testing from other high risk dzongkhags and places. Recently they conducted sample tests from Samtse, Gomtu, Dorokha and Lhamoizingkha. All tested negative.
He said the COVID testing is still going on and rather it has been enhanced. They have identified all the corners of the high-risk areas. The tests are done to those people who are working in the MDP area, all the frontliner, truckers, workers in the factories, villagers along the borders, taxi drivers and 10 percent of the students and teachers are tested.
He said the people of Phuentsholing are more cooperative than many other places in the country.
Meanwhile, as of October 28, 2020, Phuentsholing Thromde has four positive cases and all are Non-Bhutanese. They are vaccinated and doing well in the isolation center.