Member of Parliament (MP) of Tashichhoeling Dil Maya Rai requested Ministry of Health and all other representatives of different agencies in the COVID-19 Task Force teams in all levels to harmonize the COVID-19 protocol and make it as user-friendly as possible with the least bureaucratic hurdles for travelers, businesses and a villager from the remotest parts of the country.
The MP said the harmonization is needed most in the high risk areas like the dzongkhags along the southern and eastern regions. MP said if it is possible to institute, “one stop shop” for all the citizens to be able to register for quarantine facility without having to bother their literate relatives or elected leaders who in return are taken as stepping on the toes of the COVID-19 Task Force.
The MP also shared that the quarantine facilities in the southern regions do not have good facilities as compared to northern regions, and adding to it, there are not many hotels. There is a concern that not just positive cases but more mental illness cases will be reported and also the toll free numbers are not received by anyone.
Another concern she shared is that it is a mosquito breeding season and people are suffering in the quarantine centers, so either the government can provide them with mosquito nets or ask them to bring one along with them.
She said earlier, in 24 hours, Sipsoo reported 13 positive cases from the quarantine centers and it was learned that people were sharing the same toilet. Similarly, most of the people in quarantine centers are NCDs patients and the same food is provided to them. So the government could also look into these issues.
In response, the foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said there will be inconvenience especially in the Samtse dzongkhag as the number of positive cases detected are high. However, if any person has grievances related to COVID-19 or other issues, they can always call toll free or they can always get help from Gups and other officials in their respective dzongkhags.
The other issue is that Samtse Dzongkhags has limited quarantine facilities, with not even three centers and it is very difficult to even accommodate 100 people. The minister said just in a month, a total of 1,652 people have registered to travel out of their dzongkhag.
Despite advice not to travel unless necessary, there are 5,000 plus people traveling inter-dzongkhag. The same person has travelled four to five times just in a month. The government appeals to the public to travel only when it is an emergency. If protocols are not made stricter then community transmission will be there.
The foreign minister said the government is well aware of all the issues and difficulties faced in the southern regions and the government will be working on improving COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.
During the Question and Answer Hour Session, Dewathang Gomdar MP Ugyen Dorji said if there is any possibility to have more quarantine centers in gewogs and not only in dzongkhag headquarters.
Drametse Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said some people travel to refresh or to meet their family in other dzongkhags and some are genuinely traveling. There are not many people coming from abroad.
Phuentshogpelri MP Ganesh Ghimiray said that most of the people from southern regions travel for medical treatment in the national referral hospitals. So, if there are medical specialists in the regional hospital then the traveling is likely to reduce.
In response to Dewathang Gomdar MP, the foreign minister said quarantine centers in gewogs are not possible as when checked by the health officials it does not meet the criteria and also there is shortage of Dessups. The government is looking at having more quarantine centers in the gewogs where people travel the most in the country.
Lyonpo shared that most of the quarantine centers in Paro and Thimphu are below Nu 2,000 per day and most of the hotels are not willing to make their hotels into quarantine centers because as per their experience, many people have destroyed or lost hotel properties.
The government is also looking at fast tracking to deploy medical specialists and medical equipment in the regional hospital.
Meanwhile, Bartsham Shongphu MP Passang Dorji (Ph.D) shared that if a second dose of vaccines are given then this will benefit people and may also reduce the duration of quarantine. He said people have no choice other than to travel for a living. The MP requested the foreign minister to share the progress of providing second dose vaccines to the people in the country.
In response, the foreign minister said the government is working on providing second doses between 12 weeks to 16 weeks but there are no exact numbers as to how many vaccines Bhutan will receive for now.
The Foreign minister said after the second dose, the government hopes that the COVID-19 restrictions will be relooked at and may be eased.