A total of 12,759 Bhutanese are abroad
Starting from April, 880 people came back home from abroad in the first batch. 1,017 people returned home in the second batch, and 563 came in the third batch, as of 12 May.
From 24 May to 1 June, in the fourth phase of the evacuation program, three flights will be sent to bring 639 Bhutanese in Kuwait, Dubai and Bahrain to Bhutan.
So far, there are 3,099 Bhutanese who have come back via flights managed by the government. In addition, 1,249 Bhutanese came via chartered flights, taking the total number of people returning home to 4,348 from 28 countries.
Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, during a COVID-19 press conference, said that as per the data collected so far, there are 12,759 Bhutanese who are still abroad in 70 countries. There are 70 Bhutanese in US and Canada who want to come back.
“We are talking with our embassies abroad and finding a way out. We do not have an issue in bringing them in, however, the airports are shut in many countries. We can just send a flight to one place and pick them up. We cannot have any transit flights,” Lyonpo added.
Lyonpo said that they are in close discussions, and if airports open up then they can help in bringing the Bhutanese back in the country.
Meanwhile, Lyonpo shared his concerns that with the increasing number of COVID-19 positive cases in the country, many people are now questioning the move to bring back the Bhutanese people from abroad, due to the perceived risk of local transmission in the country.
He said they should neither discriminate the Bhutanese who have come from abroad nor stop the others from coming back home.
“His Majesty’s concern is to save all Bhutanese from COVID-19, and to stop any possibility of a local transmission,” he added.
In addition, Lyonpo said that the Bhutanese coming back from abroad are the ones who are most affected as they have lost their jobs. And with no salaries, they have no money to meet their monthly expenses including getting the essential food items due to lockdowns. They have no place to get medical treatment if they happen to be COVID-19 positive.
He said, “That is why they chose to come back. People who are doing well with their jobs are still abroad. Therefore, instead of discriminating them and stopping them from coming back, help them to get back safely.”
There are cases, whereby the persons who completed the quarantine period were not allowed to enter their homes by their families, and left ignored and alone. “We urge everyone not to discriminate,” ‘Lyonpo added.