Protagonists at ground zero

Phuentsholing and her residents stood the test of time with unwavering resilience through the face of the pandemic, earns ovations and salutations for National Award

Tashi Namgyal/Thimphu

Touted as the longest lockdown in the world, Phuentsholing and its residents stood still for 2,880 hours when the town went into its fourth lockdown. Phuentsholing has witnessed the worst lockdown in the history of the nation. However, the amount of endurance shown by the residents and the unparalleled resilience of the frontliners have earned heaps of applauds from all sections of the society.

β€œWe sympathize with the fellow citizens in Phuentsholing and other border towns who have been under lockdown for months. And thank you for all the sacrifices you made to keep the rest of us safe,” a statement from the Opposition Party read.

A college student said that the question of national integrity was at stake when the recurrent lockdowns struck Phuentsholing. β€œHowever, the border town and her residents bear testimony to what we can do if we think and act as one,” he said. β€œThank you would be too mere an act of gratitude. The town and her people deserve a national award,” she added.

A civil servant from Paro opined, β€œWe know that we as a nation are going through a difficult time. Our social and economic life has been gravely affected because of the disruptions the covid-19 pandemic has caused. With several rounds of lockdowns nationally and regionally, especially Phuentsholing, we deeply feel sorry for our people there.”

Many discoursed that the lockdown in the city which ran into months couldn’t be more painful. β€œThe rest of the country has been able to keep this dreadful disease at bay and live in peace because our fellow citizens in Phuentsholing have sacrificed for us with much resilience and concern for the national interest,” he said.

A Thimphu resident shared that the residents of Phuentsholing have placed collective welfare above the individual wellbeing. β€œThis is the best Bhutanese spirit our nation has been banking on for strength and stability through history of difficulties. We thank them for those sacrifices and love they gave for their countrymen,” he said.

β€œWe will never forget this,” a Member of Parliament (MP) from Thimphu resonated. β€œAt such times, national solidarity, unity and stability are much more important than anything else. If we have all these as our pillars, we believe that nothing can defeat us, not even the coronavirus,” he added.

The MP said that politicians too cannot afford to leverage political space for future political and electoral gains, whatsoever it may be and for that, it has become ever more important for everyone to tide over this difficult time together.

An MP from the Opposition Party said, β€œYielding to political temptations to lambast political parties and government will be counterproductive to our national goals of sailing through these trying times with our national unity, solidarity, harmony, and cooperation intact.”

He said that the Opposition Party has been very mindful of giving their opinions on issues that are being faced by the people because of the pandemic. β€œThey have to be carefully analyzed to ensure our intent of being service to the nation does not tantamount to disservice. We have refrained from making comments that would stir emotions of our affected people, especially those living in Phuentsholing,” he added.

According to the Opposition Party, unmindful reactions to the recent comments by the economic affairs ministry would not have helped the people and the nation in any way. β€œIf we did, the emotions would have given way to logic and reasoning that often leads to conflict and even disorder.”

He further added that such references should not be made to the people who have already suffered because of the lockdowns.

However, in order to make lives a bit comfortable, the government has been recommended to study the livelihood situation of all the residents of Phuentsholing town and make interventions.

Families who want to relocate themselves to other Dzongkhags of the country should be facilitated on priority basis while exploring to quarantine them in other Dzongkhags where they are relocated to address the shortage of quarantine facilities.

It is also recommended that vegetables from other parts of the country be transported and sold in Phuentsholing as the cost of living has gone up many folds.

Enough medical staffs should be deployed to Phuentsholing Hospital so that lives are not lost in the process of following covid protocols, especially during cases that need referrals to JDWNRH.

According to the Opposition, the continuous detection of the virus from the community could be linked to some residents that are falling into poverty brackets because of which they might be compelled to discreetly break covid protocols to get essentials illegally from across the border at cheaper rates. To counter this, the low income group residents should be ensured supply of essential items daily.

Frontliners who were stationed in Phuentsholing and other border towns also shared that the spirit shown by the residents has boosted their morale.

β€œWe didn’t know what to do when the first lockdown was imposed in Phuentsholing. People were all over us that made us nervy most of the time,” a Desuup in Phuentsholing, Chimmi Wangmo said.

However, everything evolved over time and Desuups like Chimmi are enjoying their duty and workplace a lot more. β€œPeople are now cooperative, calmer and they now know what they are doing in the face of this dreadful pandemic,” another Desuup, Kado said.

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