Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji

Opening of gates along border only after pandemic is under control globally: Foreign Minister

One of the big questions over which there is a lot of discussion in bordering towns and villages is when Bhutan will open its southern border gates from Phuentsholing to Samdrupjongkhar.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that Phuentsholing had a four-month long lockdown in recent times that has led many people to move out of the town.

“We are not only the ones who are suffering due to closure of gates or airport. It is the same everywhere around the world. All the countries have kept their borders closed, and have put restrictions because we want to prevent COVID-19,” Lyonpo added.

Though the adult population is vaccinated, children are yet to be vaccinated, he said, adding that even after vaccination, there is every chance of re-infection, and such waves of re-infection are happening all over the world.

He said, “We are still learning about the virus. We are economically suffering more, but nevertheless, we are very grateful to the Government of India for their support always. We want to see our economic transactions opening up on both sides, but it is not possible just now, with the pandemic.”

There are restrictions in India as well, and Lyonpo said, that given the pandemic situation, they are trying to facilitate businesses between the two countries in every possible way.

Local communities in Phuentsholing are encouraged to buy things from Jaigaon, and exchange of currencies is also being facilitated.

The government is keeping a watch on the evolving situation, and things can only go back to normal once the pandemic is contained. However, most countries that felt that the pandemic was contained have suddenly had resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and the countries that are highly vaccinated are also seeing resurgence, Lyonpo added.

He said, “When the whole world can contain (the pandemic) then only, we will think of reopening the gates along the borders. It is most important to safeguard the lives of the people, for now, on both the sides. If we are to open up the gates then we will have to open up the airlines as well, and these are not possible at the present state.”

He said the government is mindful about the sufferings of the people, and the people have been requesting to lift the 7-day quarantine system, which the government is not able to do, given the above reasons.

Lyonpo said when there are restrictions within the country, the talk on opening the gates is not possible. Only when thing are better, then the government will consider opening up the gates, he added.

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