English | Dzongkha Saturday, July 24, 2021

Too early to put the blame on the company for COVID-19 outbreak in Gomtu, PCAL’s CEO

Jun 14, 2021

The Penden Cement Authority Limited’s (PCAL) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says it is too soon to shift the blame on the company for the COVID-19 outbreak in Gomtu, Samtse. Gomtu or Phuentshogpelri Gewog has seen over 20 positive cases since the first two cases on June 6. People in Gomtu allege the outbreak would not have happened if self-containment measures were in place at the PCAL factory.

The first two cases from Gomtu were both women unloaders of the PCAL. The company imports coal, gypsum and cement clinker and these raw materials are brought directly into the plant for unloading.

In a telephone interview, the PCAL CEO who is also the Gewog’s COVID-19 Task Force incident commander said, “Most unloading work is mechanised. The unloaders only work to scrap off remaining raw materials from the truck floor, which is disinfected first. So, they don’t have much exposure to Indian drivers coming in.”

However, people the BBS talked to said, given the risk, loaders and unloaders should have been kept in a self-contained facility and restricted them to go after their shift. 11 of the 14 unloaders tested positive so far.

The PCAL CEO said that industries can’t operate in a self-contained mode with many employees. All 16 industries in the gewog do not operate in self-containment.

“We have been following the same protocol since the first day of the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the protocol has been in existence. It applies to all industries in the country. No revision of protocols has been done so far. The industries only operate in self-containment during lockdowns.”

According to the CEO, despite not operating in self-containment, stringent safety and security measures are in place. The CEO said, “The workers are made to wash and change clothes immediately after their shifts. They use mask and rubber boots. Desuups and the Police monitor the entire operation. Key employees are tested every week while rest of the employees are tested at random.”

Meanwhile, the two index cases tested positive on the seventh day of their shift. The women were at home during the lockdown in Samtse from 13th to 27th May. They resumed their shift on May 29. On 4th June, the two women were tested, and their results came positive on June 6.

In Gomtu, with more cases being detected and the number of primary contacts increasing, the PCAL’s hall has been converted into an isolation facility. The vegetable market in Gomtu is also being converted to a quarantine facility, which would house close to a hundred people. The new quarantine facility will be ready in the next three days.

The initial plan was to evacuate all positive cases and primary contacts from Gomtu to Samtse and Phuentshogling. Gomtu only has a quarantine facility to cater to routine travellers.

Sherub Dorji, Samtse   

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