Thimpu: A 35-year-old monk from Bhutan practicing in one of the monasteries in Rangka, Sikkim, passed away due to COVID-19 complications on Saturday. The monk was admitted in the Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Multi-Speciality Hospital (STNM) in Sochaygang, three kilometre from capital Gangtok.

The family members of the deceased monk had informed the Prime Minister Lotay Tshering about his health condition and efforts were being made to evacuate him to Bhutan. Under the PM’s directions, the Phuntsholing hospital had arranged ambulance and health staff on Saturday, but the patient’s deteriorating health made it difficult to transport him.

While attempts were made to bring back the body of the deceased monk to Bhutan, the current surge of COVID-19 in Sikkim made it difficult. The monk was cremated on Monday with support from the monastery.  

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo shared her grief. “Though an ambulance was sent to pick him up, unfortunately his O2 saturation dropped and family members refused intubation,” she said.

The Gangtok Municipal Corporation (GMC), in charge of all cremations related to COVID-19 deaths in East Sikkim, has a 10-member team responsible for ferrying the deceased from hospitals to the cremation ground in Jalipool, 11 km from Gangtok.

The deceased monk is from Milum village, Orong block under Samdrup Jongkhar district. Speaking to Bhutan Times, the brother of the deceased said the family tried to bring him home, but couldn’t due to the pandemic. 

According to the family member, they were worried as they couldn’t contact the deceased for few weeks. One of his family members living in Australia tried to contact the other monks of the monastery and learnt he has been down with COVID-19. 

Recently, the Government of Bhutan brought back few Bhutanese monks from the monastery. However, as the deceased was seriously ill at the time, he could not come home. 

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