Bhutan’s journey through the COVID-19 pandemic

Follow COVID-19 norms even after vaccination: PM

However, Lyonchhen says there will no lockdown and it is not necessary to close offices and schools

The recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine must continue to maintain social distance, wear masks and practice hand hygiene, Lyonchhen Dasho Dr. Lotay Tshering said, while addressing the nation on Wednesday evening.

“The health protocols put in place to tackle the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) will stay for a long time and people will have to keep wearing masks even after a vaccine,” he said, adding that masks play an important role in keeping people safe, not only from Covid-19 but also from many other infectious diseases.

“The vaccination rollout is an important milestone in combating the viral infection, but it is not compulsory and will not be forced upon anyone,” Lyonchhen said.

The government announced that the COVID-19 vaccine would be administered free for all Bhutanese and the public must make use of it.

According to the Lyonchhen, each registered individual will receive two doses of the vaccine, the second one after an interval of 8-12 weeks after the first dose.

The PM also quashed rumor of a third lockdown in the country, by saying that there will no lockdown in the country like before.

However, the PM added that people cannot travel between Dzongkhags for one week from March 27 and that travel will be allowed within the Dzongkhags.

Lyonchhen also informed the nation that during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, it is not necessary to close offices and schools.

“Employees can take turns for vaccination. If they get some side effects, they may take leave,” Lyonchhen said.

Further, the government announced that Bhutanese citizens planning to go abroad for employment are encouraged not to travel before the COVID-19 vaccination in the country is completed.

According to Lyonchhen, one can get a certificate after taking the vaccine.

“Bhutanese traveling abroad will also be asked for vaccine certificate by foreign countries. And we will be asking foreign travelers coming to Bhutan for proof of vaccination; this is for your safety, wellbeing, and convenience,” he said.

He added that there is more than 70% chance to never get the virus when you take the vaccine. Even if you get the virus then it will prevent severe COVID-19 and also reduce the chances of infecting others.

“But if you don’t take the vaccine then you will have to undergo the 7-day quarantine when traveling from a high-risk area to a low-risk area,” he said, adding that people may also be required to undertake quarantine in foreign countries while traveling there.

Lyonchhen said that he would prefer to avail the COVID-19 vaccine first in the country.

“However, as per the religious side; it is auspicious to start with a woman aged 30 years. I will go to my area to get the vaccine,” he said.

Lyonchhen also clarified that the vaccine doses have no proven links to blood clots or deaths as reported in some countries. Some countries in Europe have stopped the Astra-Zeneca vaccine due to blood clotting and some of the countries have restarted vaccines after studies showed no such links.

“Once the vaccines arrive on March then it will be distributed all over the country,” he said, adding that around 536,000 are eligible for the vaccines and around 480,372 have registered.  “So, I request people to take the COVID-19 vaccine. It will protect you and also the nation,” Lyonchhen added.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu