MoH and PMO have differing position on risk from people completing quarantine

A week ago on 10th April the Health Ministry said that people who completed the 21-day quarantine period are safe as they have been tested and pose no risk and so there should be no discrimination against them. The ministry said they are even issued certificates.

However, a few days later on 13th April the Prime Minister’s office sent a notice saying that the government decided that all businesses and shops must close by 7 pm, and the people visiting public spaces or roaming in groups of three or more will be scrutinized by law enforcers. This announcement was meant for all the public and was in view of the risk from people completing the 21-day quarantine period.

However, the Health Minister Dechen Wangmo insisted that the order issued is not due to the people coming out of the quarantine facility and in fact, the order was for the all the people to refrain from gathering in public places and not to go to town unless it is necessary but there were some people gathering together in town.

She said it was never meant for the people who were in quarantine but for the benefit of  the general public because it just take one person to spread the disease in the community. With this, the government has to plan accordingly.

“We had doubts that there might be a risk of community transmission and that is the reason the notification was sent,” Lyonpo added.

Lyonpo explained that the Novel Coronavirus is a new virus, and even scientists are not able to understand the behavior of the virus, and with no treatment, the main aim of the country is to stop this virus from spreading.  In addition, Foreign Minister (Dr) Tandi Dorji said it was never a problem earlier for the people to gather anywhere and at any time, but now given a situation, people must make a habit of staying home and refraining from public gathering unless there is a vaccine for the virus. The staying at home habit will reduce the risk of community transmission, Lyonpo added.

The government requested the public to avoid crowds and late night gatherings but there are people seen around and they are mostly the youth. So in order reduce the risk the community transmission, the government issued an order for all businesses to close by 7pm and gathering in groups of more than three people to be discouraged.

However, The Bhutanese pointed out the clear contradiction of the position of the MoH and the PMO on this.

In fact the order from the PMO is very clear and says, “To minimise the risk of community transmission given the increasing number of people completing the 21-day quarantine period, the government decides to implement the following starting tomorrow (April,14, 2020): All businesses and shops must close by 7pm; People visiting public spaces or roaming in groups of three or more will be scrutinised by law enforcers; We solicit everyone’s cooperation to prevent and protect ourselves from this pandemic.”

When this was pointed out the Foreign Minister changed track and said there are cases in other countries where a person is tested positive after 40 days, and some who have tested negative have again tested positive.

He said the government has been requesting people who have completed their quarantine period to stay at home at least for a week and avoid gatherings. Almost 2,000 people have completed their quarantine period, and since the virus is new, so there are chances that one or two persons might be having virus.

Lyonpo said today people are finding it difficult to cope with new rules but as time passes, everyone will adjust to the rules.

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