After a person tested positive for COVID-19, Jaigaon, across the border in West Bengal, India remains under lockdown but the residents in the neighbouring Bhutanese town in Phuentsholing seem indifferent and it’s business as usual
After a person tested positive for COVID-19, Jaigaon, across the border in West Bengal, India remains under lockdown but the residents in the neighbouring Bhutanese town in Phuentsholing seem indifferent and it’s business as usual.
A 55-year-old man was tested positive for COVID-19 at Deokota Toll, Jaigaon on July 21. Hasimara, which is 18km away from Phuentsholing also reported four COVID-19 cases and is under lockdown. Hamilton, five to six km from Hasimara has also reported a positive case.
In Phuentsholing, most shops have installed hand-washing basins but not many use them. Except for the big departmental stores, shoppers also hardly use the Druk Trace app. Many are seen loitering in the town without facemasks.
A spare parts businessman, Dorji said COVID-19 cases across the border are quite worrisome.
“The virus is close enough,” he said. “And we hear that the one in Jaigaon was a community transmission.”
As goods and commodities are still brought through Jaigaon, it has become highly risky now, Dorji said.
“Personally, I feel closing the shops at 7pm was better for Phuentsholing,” the businessman said.
When the closing time was extended to 9pm, he said people were seen in the town until 10pm or 11pm. The new normal is that the people are “relaxed.”
Yeshey Needup, who has come to the bordering town two days ago said that there were several changes in Phuentsholing.
“There is no traffic congestion now,” he said. “The crowd is also not huge.”
Comparing Phuentsholing and Thimphu, Yeshey Needup said that the fear was “palpable” in Phuentsholing.
“The risk is definitely higher in Phuentsholing,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the busiest places in the town is the three-storey vegetable market complex. However, there are some control measures. About 30 Bhutan Red Cross Society (BRCS) volunteers monitor the complex from 9am until it closes.
Hand-washing, facemask, Druk Trace app or manual registration of details, and thermal scanning are compulsory at the complex. Hand-sanitisers are provided too.
The officiating coordinator of BRCS, Sonam Penjor said it was difficult to manage the crowd earlier but it has improved drastically now.
“A few people still argue with us. We call police when people don’t comply,” he said.
Meanwhile, many say it was the heat that made it difficult to wear masks. Most people use masks without covering their nose.
A Phuentsholing resident, Lungten Wangdi said people are just “carefree” despite worsening situations across the border.
“Everything is normal. Nothing has changed. People wear masks only when they see police or DeSuups,” he said.
“Only a community transmission will change people here.”