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Bhutan yet to finalise guidelines to ease lockdown

DIGEST-ENG-01-09-2020-Bhutan

With the Covid-19 positive cases increasing, total lifting of the nationwide lockdown is still uncertain.

The implementation of lockdown did not go seamless for many who faced various inconveniences.

The government is in the process of developing lockdown guidelines that will streamline and implement endurable lockdown henceforth, according to an official from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Experts from different agencies are in self-confinement developing the guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP). The official from the PMO said the guideline and SOPs are developed based on the lessons learnt from three-week lockdown.

“As this lockdown was the first time, the implementation was complex and many services were affected,” the official said. “This is why now various groups are looking to have a systematic operation and lockdown hereafter.”

The guidelines will spell out details of events or activities in sequence when a lockdown is declared including what services would remain open.

The official added that different SOPs will also be developed under the overall lockdown guidelines. The first SOP would be on the safety and welfare of the frontline workers. 

Other SOPs will look into essential delivery services, and handling people stranded in different parts of the country.

“We’re looking to making efficient essential delivery. The complex strategy this time led to many complaints. The SOP will be streamlined,” the official said.

Learning from past lessons, different SOPs on different issues would be prepared.

“Various experts are also looking into 12th Plan with the objective to engage as many Bhutanese to protect their livelihood,” the official added. “Various economic activities are being explored, as we need to identify other sources for finance.”

The government is expected to finalise and announce soon the guidelines.

Meanwhile, the national Covid-19 task force endorsed a guideline for zone-based opening of shops in thromdes and dzongkhags throms last week.

The guideline will ensure that every zone is a self-contained unit that would require to have shops selling grocery, vegetables, livestock products, and medicines.

The zone will also have an outlet that has an endorsement from Bhutan Duty-Free Ltd to cater to tobacco consumers. Those zones without shops especially that sell essential commodities, dzongkhag or thromdes would facilitate the issuance of license for new shops in coordination with economic affairs ministry.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering in his public address published by the PMO said that going by the situation the lockdown might take place on and off. With every lockdown, the government will streamline so that people can experience seamless lockdown.

“Until a vaccine is available, it will be difficult to contain and we’ll have to go through similar situations. We cannot say how many times we will have to go through a lockdown and this will depend on people’s behaviour and cooperation.”