Businesswoman accused of breaching COVID-19 travel protocol refutes allegations

A 37-year-old businesswoman based in Gelephu has claimed that she did not breach any quarantine protocol and followed it to travel to Thimphu on November 6, contrary to what was reported in a Kuensel article dated November 14.

She said before planning her trip to Thimphu, on November 5, she had visited the Central Regional Referral Hospital, Gelephu for a COVID-19 test. According to the result, she had tested negative for COVID-19 and had been allowed to travel to her destination.

However, after obtaining the test report from the hospital, on the morning of November 6, she saw a Desuup official on duty allowing vehicles for movement. She then enquired the escort official Desuup if she could travel  since she had the COVID-19 test certificate.

The escort official Desuup had then issued her a road permit which was already signed by the Dzongkhag Incident Commander and the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Gelephu. After acquiring the road permit, she traveled to her destination.

Talking to Business Bhutan, the businesswoman said she was not stopped at the Sarpang gate and if she had breached the protocol then the officials would have stopped her.

“Due to an emergency I had to rush to Thimphu since my stepson who is an army officer was sick and also all my children are in the capital,” she said.

On November 9, after Gelephu police learned about her journey, they called the Thimphu police to interrogate her. Her statement was recorded and after that, she was placed under quarantine.

After that, she was called by the Gelephu OC on November 19 to report back to the Gelephu police station anyhow if she did not want to be arrested.

According to the businesswoman, she wasn’t able to attend to her stepson and completely solve her daughter’s problem who had been undergoing some personal issues living in Thimphu.

“I urge to the authority – is it the things become emergency only after an unpleasant incident takes place or should I solve it before it precedes as I was in such state of affairs.”

“Despite my plea to report to the police after November 24, the police asked me to report anyhow otherwise they would arrest me,” she added.

Immediately after she rushed to Gelephu and upon arrival, she said she called the Gelephu SP to report about her arrival and the SP had asked her to report to the police station the next morning (November 20).

“We don’t have any grievances against any officials or any particular departments. We owe and respect the laws laid down by our country,” she said.

She added that she had tested more than four times for Covid-19– both on Rapid and RT PCR as she was working close to the Covid VVIPs.

“I am just confused as I have not crossed any international borders nor carried out any illegal matters, but still if the case is not reported well, then the normal citizens shall take me wrong. I never knew that in emergency cases we need to go for quarantine or else I would have travelled the normal way staying in quarantine but again it was emergency,” the businesswoman said.

Meanwhile, Sarpang Dzongda , who is also the Incident Commander (IC), said that they have forwarded the case to the police.

He said that any person planning to travel from Gelephu needs to follow a set of procedures which is to write an application to the IC, then the person has to undergo COVID-19 test. “If negative, we bring the certificate from the hospital. Based on the urgency of the reasons the person/ traveler will be issued the road permit.”

The Gelephu SP Colonel Karma Dukpa said that they have recorded her statement and the case is under investigation.

Sarpang Dzongkhag has implemented mandatory seven-days quarantine for routine travelers in the wake of the pandemic.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu