PM counters Opposition’s proposal to lift restrictions faster

On the Opposition’s recommendations to conduct mass testing of red zones and red areas, isolation of positive cases and lifting the lockdown, the Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering said that there are only a few red clusters or red buildings in Thimphu, as it was reduced to red flats.

Lyonchhen said that it is simple to say but difficult to put into practice. The aim is to not have anymore lockdowns in the future.

“Our goal is not to create zero positive cases in the community. People will get infected with the virus, which is fine, and how long will we go without positive cases in the community? So the goal is to avoid inconveniences after getting infected. I don’t believe it is necessary to test everyone in the community. I doubt they have not gone through the announcement about the relaxation,” Lyonchhen said, and further added, “I respect the Opposition Party’s recommendation, but we are unable to comply with their demands. I believe they misunderstood the purpose of the current lockdown relaxation.”

In terms of testing all people in the red clusters, Lyonchhen said that the government has already done away with the red clusters, and the Opposition Party may not have been aware of it.

“Only one or two red clusters can be found. A toilet shared by 8 to 9 families was identified as a red cluster, and the infected family and the other families who do not have the virus had to share the same toilet, so we tested them, took the positive family to isolation centers, and released the negative ones,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen clarified that if people residing in all flats or apartments in one building are infected then the whole building is identified as a red building.

“We’ve been working with the National COVID-19 Taskforce, and we’re up to date on everything. The Opposition members do not have the opportunity to participate on a daily basis, and we were unable to send a clear message, so they were not aware and have expressed concerns, for which I am grateful,” Lyonchhen added.

The government began sealing the red flats in Phuentsholing, which went well, so the same sealing system is being used in Thimphu for more than a week now.

Lyonchhen said, “It would have been preferable if they had cleared their doubts, and told us that they had doubts and how red clusters are going and plans and strategies for the lockdown, and then I could have clearly explained it to them rather than communicating through press releases.”

Lyonchhen met with all Dzongdas as well as the civil servants, and he said he will soon meet with all the Gups to inform them of the handling of COVID-19 situation.

“And I also had discussions with members of the National Council and the National Assembly. The Opposition Leader was there during the meeting, and I explained it very clearly, but it appears that I did not say it clearly, or that they did not hear it clearly due to the internet connection,” Lyonchhen said.

Opposition’s 13 March release

DPT in a release on 13 March called on the government to conduct mass testing of red zones and red areas within a week, isolate positive cases and lift the nationwide lockdown immediately thereafter.

It said its proposed strategy does not contradict with or nullify the government’s strategy and said ongoing efforts on vaccination drive, setting up of COVID-19 hospitals and putting in place new SOPs must continue and in fact, be expedited.

The party had said it scrutinized the merits and demerits of the Government’s notification on ‘New Phase of COVID-19 Management’ and they particularly admire and respect protecting lives, vaccination drive and focus on clinical management being the panacea of the new strategy.

“However, stretching the lockdown further from the already protracted one appears neither smart nor will usher unusual benefits. On the contrary, the cost to the nation, particularly the impact on the national economy, private sector and individual citizens are enormous and has almost reached a breaking point. As mentioned earlier, low income and wage workers are hit the hardest,” said DPT.

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