The Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said the people must wear facemasks in public places, but this is still largely not being followed.
During the COVID-19 press brief, the Health Minister said the government cannot force any individual to wear facemasks but masks are being advocated now as it is difficult to bring about an overnight behavioral change in the public once there is community transmission.
She said anyone going to public places and visiting hospitals should use a facemask since no one can assure that there will not be community transmission.
She the risk is more where there is a high population density, people are living in border areas and people are traveling.
The founder of Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB), Garab Dorji, said he wears a facemask all the time, and people coming from abroad should wear facemasks for a certain period. In order to not ostracize them, people in the country can also wear facemasks so that they are not being differentiated. While wearing a facemask is not only for COVID-19, as it also offers protection against the normal cough and cold, he added.
He said most of the people in quarantine facilities are young, and after they are done with their 21 days quarantine, they will definitely go around in the public places so one can never predict. There is a high chance of community transmission if a person who tested negative while in quarantine tests positive later, as shown in some international cases, he said.
Sangay Khandu, 58, retired army personnel, said when he always wears a facemask when he is out and about. The facemask helps to protect him from the seasonal flu as well. He said he is taking the responsibility to protect himself from COVID-19 as he is in the elderly age category. He also urges his family members to wear facemasks whenever they are going out or when in a public gathering.
Similarly, Thinley Dema, a shopkeeper said as she deals with different people everyday so it has become mandatory for her to wear a facemask and also wash her hands frequently.
“It would benefit all the people if the government issues directives for all to wear facemasks because some are wearing it and some are not. It is an effective barrier,” said Thinley Dema.
According to the many pharmacies in the capital, whenever there are new cases of COVID-19, the people rush to buy facemasks and hand sanitizers. But there are some people who buy facemasks in bulk. Most of the people look for N-95 type facemask and surgical mask selling at Nu 45-50 and Nu 25-30. Facemasks are easily available in pharmacies and some other shops as well.
Meanwhile, the government is in the process of stitching about 200,000 to 300,000 cloth facemasks to be distributed in all corners of the country for the people to wear. The stitched mask will be easily available at the cost price of Nu 38.