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Bhutan eases lockdown in rural areas

DIGEST-ENG-24-08-2020-Bhutan

The government announced yesterday that it has decided to allow movement of individuals within their gewogs across the country.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that the decision was taken after carefully analysing the situation on the ground and based on recommendations from health experts.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji on national television last night said that villagers could move about within their own gewog and tend to their fields and livestock.

However, villagers cannot go outside their respective gewogs or into another gewog.

The minister said that those visiting shops must comply with the health safety protocol.

The dzongkhag administrations would implement the zoning and movement pass system in the next few days. 

“A few of them have even started printing the movement cards to issues to households,” the minister said.

The dzongkhag Covid-19 task force would determine the demarcation of the zones and also identify which shops to remain open.

The minister said that there were no positive cases outside Phuentsholing and Paro. The contact tracing for the latest positive cases in Phuentsholing are also being traced.

While the situation is not perfect, he said that it had improved to give the government confidence to lift the restrictions gradually.

“This means our folks in rural areas can step out to attend to their farms and livestock, while also ensuring they have access to some essential services,” the PMO’s release stated.

“However, individuals are discouraged to go to other gewogs or cross beyond to thromde areas that are more populated and have heightened risks.”

And he said: “We would like to clarify that the relaxation is only on the movement of individuals and does not refer to the opening of schools and institutes.”    

Shops within the gewogs will be open but individuals will have to follow the Covid-19 protocols to come out and avail themselves of the services.

Local government officials are expected to closely monitor the situation on the ground should there be unforeseen developments.

Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said all shops in Thimphu dealing with essentials registered and approved by the trade department would be allowed to open from today.

However, for those who are interested to open but have not registered with the department will have to call the toll-free 1010.

The minister said this was done to ease the congestion and waiting time for those buying the essential items.