Certain relaxations of existing Covid-19 restrictions being considered

The PM says that the government will announce the relaxations soon

With no community cases in the border areas for more than 15 days, the National Covid-19 Taskforce Team is considering some relaxations from the existing restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19. 

This was informed by Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during the Meet-The-Press session yesterday.

“With the second dose completion and no community outbreaks in the border areas for more than two weeks, we feel little comfortable now. The outbreak of the virus has been controlled,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen added that the National Taskforce team had a discussion recently and if the timing of the business closure could be extended till 10pm, there won’t be much risk in the transmission of the virus.

“The taskforce team is also considering for the reduction of 21 days mandatory quarantine to 14 days for those coming from abroad based on the recommendation of the health experts,” Lyonchhen said, adding that the government is in the process of deciding on some kinds of COVID -19 relaxation since there is minimal risk.

With the completion of both doses of the vaccine for the adult population for more than a month now and even children getting vaccinated, business entities say that there should be some relaxations from the COVID-19 protocols now.

Most of the business entities, especially the restaurants and eateries in Thimphu, say that with the current closure timing at 9pm, they have to run businesses at a loss and the earnings are not even adequate to pay rents.

They say that most of the customers come to them only towards the evening and by then the restaurants have to close by 9pm.

A restaurant and bar owner in Thimphu said people usually come to his bar by 7pm.  “It is very difficult for us to even sustain,” said the bar owner.

“During the day, people don’t come to restaurants and bars. Some people come by 8pm and they have to rush as we have to close,” said another owner.

And on tourists presently having to undergo a 21-day mandatory quarantine and pay the Sustainable Development Fees (SDF), the Prime Minister said if the tourist coming in can assure and show that they are 100% virus free, they don’t have to go for quarantine.

“The main reason for undergoing quarantine is if people are infected with the virus, it is to isolate them from other people and get treated,” Lyonchhen said.

However, Lyonchhen said that if the 21-day quarantine is reduced, it will also be applied to tourists.

The Tourism Council of Bhutan had issued a notification stating that tourists will be permitted to visit the country if a tourist can stay in a 21-day quarantine period, during which SDF of US$ 65 will be levied in accordance with the Tourism Rules and Regulations of 2017. However, the Minimum Daily Package Rate of US$ 250 will be applicable only after the quarantine.

Lyonchhen said that tourists have to pay only the charges for hotel and meals during the quarantine.

“The tourists can pay SDF only after completing the quarantine,” Lyonchhen said. “Tourists will have to pay SDF of US$ 65 per day for the first one week; from 8 to 15 days tourists have to pay half of the SDF and after staying for 15 days they don’t have to pay the SDF.” 

The PM said that the government will soon announce the relaxation.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu