Even as the first Bhutanese COVID positive case at the border was confirmed recently,frontline responders along the sealed border region are working tirelessly, braving the elements and wildlife and dangers to their own life, to ensure that untoward cases of smuggling and loitering are prevented along with the virus.
The frontline workers are volunteers from all walks of life including civil servants, DeSuups, health personnel and the armed forces.
Each frontline worker works for 8 to 12 hours in a shift.
Karma Duptho, a Dessup at Samste has volunteered to do duty at Samste border area.
She is also a teacher in one of the primary schools at Samste.
Karma Duptho when she is not is teaching students online. “It is really challenging to handle primary duty over secondary duty. I adjust with my timing and make sure I get things done on time,” she said.
She said that being on frontline duty is a matter of pride for her. “It is an opportunity for me to serve the nation in such a dire situation,” she said. “When our king is so concerned, I cannot just sit idle. My King and my country keeps me going”.
Dessung coordinator of Samtse, Kinley Wangdi said that their duty ranges for 8-12 hours a day shift wise and they are stationed along the border. “Our duty comprises patrolling and manning, watching, observing and reporting,” he said.
They do patrolling in group collaborating with Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), Royal Bhutan Army(RBA) and village Volunteers.
The frontline workers face challenges like the weather, wild animals, swollen rivers and dense forest. They are accommodated in the schools, places arranged by the Geogs and villages, places arranged by agencies concerned and wherever there is no place to stay, the Desuung office and RBP have built shelters.
The volunteers prepare their meals by themselves as rations, rice cooker, curry cooker; boiler and gas cylinder are provided. They are also provided with torch, rain gears, gum boot, mask, binoculars and mosquito nets and repellents.
Kinley Wangdi said that they strictly follow the standard of procedure which states to adhere to social distance, mask and hand washing practices. “We create awareness among people around our point of entry on daily basis. We also follow the government’s orders and remind the people to do the same at the point of entry.”
“The greatest inspiration to all of us is His Majesty the King and his selfless act in serving the nation unconditionally. I am there to serve the nation in times of need,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dessup Karma Duptho said as a women volunteer she feels that Bhutanese women are generally viewed as the weaker sex so they have issues coming forward to shoulder such responsibilities. “In fact, women are taking care of their home and families when their men are on duty so they should be appreciated. They are serving the nation in their own way,” she said.
Starting from May 18 periodic testing of communities and frontline workers along the border area has been carried out as one of the additional strategies to prevent and contain local transmission of Coronavirus.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu