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Bhutanese Embassies in India and Bangladesh in touch with Bhutanese there amid COVID surge

Apr 11, 2021

Coronavirus is spreading like a wildfire in the densely populated region of South Asia. Bangladesh and India saw a surge in the rate of infections and deaths in recent weeks. Bangladesh announced a second lockdown last Saturday and some of India’s largest city said they were on the verge of declaring one. BBS asked Bhutanese residing in India and Bangladesh how they are coping with the situations there.

Bangladesh on Monday announced a week-long nationwide lockdown, suspending public transport and shutting markets to combat the surge in coronavirus cases in the country.  The total number of infection surged from over 500,000 at the end of February this year to more than 600,000 as of Thursday.

However, in the written email from the Bhutanese Embassy in Dhaka, the Embassy said it has maintained a list of Bhutanese along with their contact details, where they are and what they are doing. It also stated that students who were asked to move out of their hostels due to detection of a COVID case in their college are currently being accommodated with one of the officers of the Embassy.

Tandin Penjor, the Vice President of the Bhutanese Students’ Association in Dhaka, said none of the Bhutanese students has tested positive for COVID-19 for now. “Ever since we arrived here, we have stayed in respective hostels and tried to avoid public gatherings as far as possible. We do necessary precautions. The majority of us has already given exams and in some colleges, exams are still going on. And we were informed that on 15th April, we will be vaccinated and for that, I would like to thank, on behalf of all the students in Bangladesh, His Majesty The King, the government of Bhutan and the Bhutan Embassy for the continued support,” he said.

Meanwhile, in India, active cases are nearing the one million mark in India. India is the third worst-hit country globally. The five most affected states by total cases are Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.

Ugyen Chozom, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Bhutanese Embassy in Delhi said the embassy is in touch with the Bhutanese in these states. “Led by our ambassador, all our 13 officers and staff of the embassy are involved in the emergency response and they are allocated in various states in India. Each one of them maintains regular contacts with Bhutanese in the respective states,” she said.

“In recent weeks, the COVID cases have been increasing in India. But students here are safe and no one here has tested positive. The association presidents have been taking good care of us and we also do not travel much and stay in our place. In case of problems, we are in contact with the embassy office here,” said Tashi Phuntsho, a student in Uttar Pradesh, India.

“As a precaution, we are following safety protocols like using a facemask, washing hands. Despite safety protocols, on the 4th of March, out of 30 students here, 12 of us tested positive for coronavirus. However, our university helped us and the embassy has been also helping us. In fact, the embassy has been calling us time and again and has asked us to be careful. I also had to undergo treatment in a private hospital for which the embassy paid for all my medical expenses,” added Ugyen Dorji, also a student in Gujarat, India.

Other media outlets have reported that amid a massive spike in COVID-19 cases in India, several states in India are facing COVID vaccine shortage while its vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India is stressed. Globally, the cases haves surpassed nearly 135 million.

Samten Dolkar

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