English | Dzongkha Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Not all are happy with the strict face mask protocol, Punakha

Sep 5, 2021

Wearing a face mask is the new normal. Experts say wearing it properly in public places is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In Punakha, you might find yourself in court if you are repeatedly caught without a face mask, or for that matter, not wearing it properly. It was decided by the District COVID-19 Task Force and the police are implementing it seriously.

BBS met with a group of people who were apprehended from the town for not wearing a face mask or wearing it improperly. Among them is Choden, a resident of Khuruthang town in Punakha. She says it is quite difficult to keep the face mask on all the time since Punakha is hot these days. She was escorted to the police station to give her details for not wearing a face mask in a public place. “It is difficult to breathe while walking with a facemask. Likewise, we cannot hear properly on the phone while talking with a facemask. That is why I took off the mask today, but the police brought me to the station despite my request.”

The Punakha District COVID-19 Task Force started reinforcing the mandatory use of proper face masks in public places last month. About 250 people without wearing a face mask or wearing it improperly in public places were apprehended in the last two weeks.

Police escort the defaulters from the spot directly to the nearest police station. They are only released with a warning after submitting their details to the police for future records. Defaulters have to give a thumb impression which will be used in the court as evidence if the offence is repeated.

Police initiated this system after conducting sensitization programmes for the residents and taxi drivers. According to the Officer Commanding of Punakha police, Lt. Col. Chador Namgay, people in the district have become complacent again after the second dose of the COVID vaccine. “We have observed people breaching the COVID-19 protocols gradually. So the Dzongkhag COVID-19 Task Force has decided to reinforce wearing the face mask,” he said.

“I feel it’s reasonable to implement this system as Punakha is one the places where people from everywhere gather. We cannot say from where the virus would come. So, this is the reason for acknowledging this system to prevent the virus by adhering to the health protocols,” said Namgay Tshering, the Khuruthang Thromde Ngotshab.

“Since we have received the instructions from the government through the dzongkhag administration, the Gewog Administration has notified the public in writing. Moreover, we have sensitized the public by meeting with the respective chiwog Tshogpa constantly. Of course, there are few problems, but in the case of Toedpaisa, our people are following it strictly,” said Namgay Tenzin, the Toedpaisa Gup.

Due to human resource shortage, police are coordinating with the Desuups and forest officials to monitor the town. Likewise, the monitoring tasks for the satellite towns have been given to the respective local government leaders. Police also conduct mobile patrolling and monitor the satellite towns to ensure the strict usage of facemasks.

“Although Thinleygang is a small town, all the local leaders came here and told us about the face mask rules. Accordingly, we are always using face masks since we have a small shop here. Moreover, our chiwog Tshogpa, forest officials and police are coming here frequently to monitor the facemask usage. We are also told to use the Druk Trace App without fail,” said Rinzin, in Thinleygang.

However, some people are not happy with this system. They say it is a little too harsh.

The Khuruthang Thromde Nogtshab said people have been questioning the strict facemask rules when the government has allowed all sporting activities on the other hand. “Some even accuse us of treating them as if they have the virus. I do not know why they ask like this, maybe they are unaware of the situation,” he said.

“It is quite suffocating with a facemask while doing physical works and carrying loads. We have to remove it sometime. And then when the patrolling team sees us, they directly warn us saying that they will throw us in jail,” said Lhazin, a Vegetable Vendor in Khuruthang.

However, officials say Punakha has become a high-risk place, as the dzongkhag has many people coming from high-risk areas and also from other neighbouring dzongkhag. The mandatory face mask usage is expected to reduce the risk. The task force is also strictly monitoring the usage of the Druk Trace App, social distancing and mandatory washing facilities in all business centres.

Changa Dorji, Punakha

Edited by Sonam

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