Bhutanese across the border gripped by COVID-19 fear

Bhutanese across the border gripped by COVID-19 fear

With COVID-19 cases confirmed in India, Bhutanese living across the border in Jaigaon in India are gripped by fear, but they are taking precautionary measures like not venturing out.

The government has urged the families to either shift to Phuentsholing with their respective families or return to their villages until the situation is under control, but right now they seem to be toeing the line.

Business Bhutan spoke to a couple of Bhutanese residing in Jaigaon and many of them shared their concern and fear over the COVID-19 and getting infected.

Sonam Wangmo, 33, who has been living in Jaigaon with her mother and sister, said ever since they heard of the virus they have locked themselves inside the house and have avoided going out. “Unless it is urgent, we don’t go out due to fear of the virus. We have stocked up on ration and till now we are living a normal life but fear is still there,” she said over the phone.

She has lived in Manglabari,Jaigaon, about 15 minutes travel distance from Bhutan gate for the past year. “I am following all the precautionary measures and avoid unnecessary travels,” she added.

Like her Nima Tamang, who has been living in Jaigaon for several years with her family, said the moment she heard about the outbreak of the virus she bought hand sanitizers and maintains hygiene at home. “I have been using mask when I go out, but most of the time I stay home and don’t allow my family members to go outside. There is nothing we can do take preventive measures but we still live in fear as we have no idea what to do next,” she said.

Sonu Tamang, who lives in Jaigaon but works in Bhutan in a private company, said that though their life is normal despite the outbreak of the virus fear of being infected due to increasing number of cases lately have left them listless. “Every morning when I go to work I have to go through the thermal gun screening and later while going home I follow the same procedure on the India side. Although it is a hassle, I don’t have any option. I am worried about the virus as I have a child at home,” she shared.

There are more than 3,000 Bhutanese living across the border. According to Indian media reports, the latest total confirmed COVID-19 cases in India are over 60.

Phuentsholing dungkhag administration is already collecting details of all Bhutanese residing in and around Jaigaon. The information will be used in case of an emergency for necessary measures.

Meanwhile, thermal gun screening is in full swing at the border entry gates and in Phuentsholing; over 1.2 mn people have been screened so far.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu