P/ling residents feel quarantine facilities not provided fairly

Around Nu 600mn have been invested in providing quarantine facilities to the routine travelers.

While Phuentsholing residents are still reeling with the impact of the prolonged lockdown, which completely disrupted their lives for over three months, today moving out of the border town has become equally painful with registered travelers having to wait for weeks, if not months, just to get into a quarantine facility.

With a sharp decline in the number of COVID 19 positive cases in the town, and majority of the residents vaccinated, the task force reduced the mandatory quarantine period from 14 to seven days. However, residents are questioning whether quarantine facilities are provided fairly.

“After registration we have to wait for over a month just to be called for the mandatory quarantine to travel out of Phuentsholing,” said a resident.

Likewise, another resident questioned whether quarantine facilities were allotted fairly because some travelers have to wait for weeks in order to move out of Phuentsholing, an unnecessary hassle they have to bear after 100 days of complete blackout.      

According to the record maintained by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), as of August 17 a total of 84,342 people were quarantined, including those who have travelled more than once.

Around Nu 600mn have been invested in providing quarantine facilities to the routine travelers. Hotels came forward to offer their facilities for free, while agreeing to facilitate daily meals at Nu 700/800 per person.

Karma, a resident, said the officials are prioritizing their friends, family and relatives while allotting the quarantine facility, thereby making the distribution unfair. “Especially to those who have urgent personal/official work outside Phuentsholing.”

Her family is currently waiting to be allotted the quarantine facility to move to Punakha.

“I have seen big businessmen frequently moving in and out of Phuentsholing, while many are left waiting,” she said, adding that there is no transparency.

Another resident, Cheten, reiterated how difficult it was to get into the quarantine facility these days, while there are some who have already travelled more than twice.  

Likewise in desperation, Pema, a mother, called the hotline service number ample of times but they failed to respond.

“My child is waiting for the call as he is getting late for his school,” she said worried.

Wangchuk, an old resident, recalled how the officials once planned to launch online registration where an individual will be provided with a number for quarantine. “But I think they forgot it.”

Tshering Dendup, a student who is currently under quarantine, is travelling to Thimphu to appear for the BCSE Preliminary Examination. When he asked the concerned officials if he could take his 80-year-old grandmother with him, they turned him down. “They said this time it was only for the ones who were appearing for the PE examination.”

However, he was surprised to see many civilians in the quarantine facility, while he was of the impression that only students appearing for the PE were allowed to travel.  

“I regret not bringing my grandmother along,” he said.

Another graduate who is also traveling to Thimphu for PE had to leave his younger brother behind as the Desuup on duty told him that only students going for the civil service examination were allotted the quarantine facility. 

But the reality was just the opposite, he said, adding many local people were filling in the quarantine facility. 

“The concerned authority should look into it. If the allotment of a quarantine facility is unfair then it would cause major problems for people with genuine reasons to travel,” he said. 

In a similar vein, a few residents suggested that the government should explore home quarantine to bridge the shortage, besides being economical. 

Sonam Dorji, a businessman, said if the government allows home quarantine, it will be helpful for both the residents and the government in terms of addressing the shortage of quarantine facilities and saving the government millions.   

Dechen, a resident, agreed, saying home quarantine would decongest the traffic, where people need not wait for their turn to get into a quarantine facility.

Sonam Tashi from Phuentsholing