1, 206 stranded in Thimphu return home

A week after the COVID-19 mass testing in Thimphu began and till date, 1,206 people stranded in the capital were sent back to their respective homes.

After the extension of the second lockdown, the Prime Minister’s Office announced the revised SOP for stranded people and for emergency cases: stranded people who want to travel out of Thimphu for emergency purpose need to undergo a three-day quarantine while others need to do so for seven days.

Earlier this week in a press brief, Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that Thimphu alone had 285 COVID-19 positive cases but people stranded in Thimphu are still being allowed to return to their homes in other dzongkhags.

According to the revised SOP, stranded people should get themselves registered with 1010 call center for public service and upon individual validation, the person will have to undergo a RT-PCR test and will be allowed to travel if the test result is negative.

According to a press release from the Public Service Call Centre 1010 (PSCC),  the PSCC has recorded 3,923 stranded cases in Thimphu affecting 8,362 people since December 2020. Of the total, 77 stranded cases involving 148 people are from other dzongkhags.

The press release states that the maximum number of stranded people in Thimphu are from Chukhha, Paro, Punakha and Wangdue. Some of the stranded had come to Thimphu to attend the cremation of close relatives, some for medical treatment, some for official purposes and others for personal reasons.

The PSCC also made public transport arrangements for movement of 270 travelers without vehicles. As of today, three buses to Punakha and Wangdue, four buses to Haa, one bus to Mongar and one bus to Lhuentse have been set up to transport people without vehicles.

The Office of the Gyalpoi Zimpon has also arranged shelter and provided ration for people who are without a place to stay in Thimphu.

The PSCC states that since the implementation of the revised protocol, 1,002 people have been kept in quarantine facility.

Finding adequate quarantine facilities for travelers is an issue currently as many are already used to quarantine COVID-19 patients and their primary contacts while others are containment centers for the frontline workers.

Currently, people travelling from Thimphu to Punakha, Wangdue and the east are kept in the quarantine facility in Punakha, Wangdue, Trongsa and Bumthang. Those travelling to other dzongkhags from Thimphu are kept in Thimphu, Chukhha and Haa. About 97 people travelling to the south are in quarantine facility in Sarpang.

The PSCC says that they are working with the local governments to explore availability of quarantine facility in their dzongkhags to expedite movement of stranded people seeking to travel to their destinations.

People stranded in Thimphu said that they visited Thimphu to meet family members but most of them are bored now and wish to return. An old woman who visited Thimphu from Paro said that she is bored at her cousin’s place and is finding it difficult to pass her time during the lockdown.

Most stranded people are hoping for a response from the PSCC as they have registered for almost three weeks. “We wish to go back to our respective families as soon as possible,” said one.

Sonam Tashi from Thimphu