Had there been strong compliance towards Covid-19 preventative measures at all times in Phuentsholing, they could have averted community transmission which has now fueled concerns and the situation could turn from “bad to worse”.
Community cases in Phuentsholing have spiked despite being in a three-month stringent lockdown that began in April. As infection continues, the National Inspection Team (NIT) explored Covid-19 safety and people’s compliance in Phuentsholing.
The inspection conducted in the first week of July asked frontliners how often they and their colleagues adhered to health guidelines like mask-wearing, frequent handwashing, social distancing, and other practices that help prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
The inspection revealed a lack of rigorous implementation of measures and strict compliance with recommended Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) designed to protect health and safety during the pandemic.
In some ways, the cause of continuous transmission of Covid-19 has now been taken as possible breaching of the lockdown protocols mixing with infected people and suspected illegal exchange of goods with opposite buildings in the neighbouring country because of the proximity location.
The inspection also pointed out inadequate monitoring of the lockdown because of a shortage of police personnel desuups leading to leakage from red clusters and buildings in other areas.
And, it also reveals breaching of safety protocols by public and frontliners, inadequate adherence to safety protocols by those delivering essential items, and frontliners with different responsibilities mixed at the containment centers.
Observations and recommendations
During the inspection, it observed a high level of compliance with health and safety protocols at the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS) containment center (CC) in terms of structure, facilities, and implementation of safety protocols.
The inspection briefly described good practices in Covid-19 prevention such as mitigation plan and strategy for outbreak response, immediate cordon off red clusters and buildings and monitors the compliance by desuups and police, and medical team diligently carrying out the responsibilities, among others.
However, besides the compliance to the safety protocols, risk factors for transmission of infection were also observed in some other containment centers and quarantine facilities.
They found that only a few CCs have installed vehicle disinfecting mechanisms at the entrance, drinking water purification mechanism, CCTV and third-party monitoring mechanism, and television in the drivers’ holding room.
Besides, it was observed that the quarantine facilities were not pre-prepared as the quarantine facility SOP and desuups were not provided proper training on management of quarantine facilities. The inspection team recommended following the SOP and train desuups before they are being posted at the centers.
They found some quarantine facilities without handwashing stations, barricades or security while transferring primary contacts to quarantine centers where people pass through the center and primary contacts.
On this front, the team recommended making compulsory installation of wash stations and putting barricades and security while transferring primary contacts to the centers and restricting the movement of people in the street.
It also noted the lapses of delivery people moving too frequently to the quarantine facility and monitoring for meal timing and safety compliance of food caterers. And, they recommended it stictly follow quarantine protocol and be monitored by the regional inspection team.
At the mini dry port (MDP), the inspection team found non-compliance such as handwashing stations without soap, frontliners without face shields, mixing of drivers and importers from all three mega zones outside gate two.
The ream recommended replenishing soap from time to time, mandatory use of face mask and facing shield by all the front-liners, segregating drivers and importers with separate zone wise label at holding shed outside the gate two and facilitating e-transfer of customs documents.
Meanwhile, the inspection team visited and inspected about 25 sites across Phuentsholing including MDP, Druk Wang Alloy at Pasakha, flu clinics, boulder export center, hospital, and truck parking.
The report lists some two dozen recommendations for southern Covid-19 task-force, national task force, and the Ministry of Health for implementation and strict controls of health protocols including the public preference of ongoing blanket lockdown for 14 days to prevent continuous transmission.