With the ban on tourism and movement of labour into Bhutan, one of the biggest dangers of the COVID-19 entering into Bhutan are those Bhutanese coming in form COVID-19 affected countries and hiding their travel history to escape the quarantine process.
The Prime Minister a few days ago talked about two Bhutanese who had been detained after they came from a COVID-19 affected countries but lied about it to escape the two-week quarantine.
Earlier this week the Health Minister said they has come across cases where people coming in from Bodh Gaya and Nepal sent in their luggage first and then pretended they went shopping to Jaigaon.
While Bhutanese coming in from Paro airport are automatically quarantined the challenge are those coming in from the southern border gates like Phuentsholing, Gelephu and others as someone could easily fly into Bagdora airport from a COVID-19 affected airport and then pretend they went shopping in Jaigaon.
The Health Minister said that the Health Ministry gets complaints and calls from people late at night even in the villages and as a result the health team has to stay up almost the whole night and cannot go home tracking down the people.
The minister gave the example of one case in Thimphu where a woman had come form a high risk country but had hidden her travel history. After a tip off the ministry could track her only 1 am in the morning and then took samples from her for testing.
The MoH team had to then wait for six hours for the results and the MoH staff and the RCDC staff were up the whole night.
She said the RCDC staff have not been home since the first case came to light.
Then again MoH staff had to go to the house and ensure proper home quarantine measures were taken.
The minister said that she is aware of six to seven such cases but there are more including the two that the PM talked about.
Lyonpo said, “Now enough sensitization and information has been provided and henceforth if anyone is caught hiding their travel history then section 410 of the penal code will be applied for prosecution.”
Section 410 or Criminal nuisance says, ‘A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of criminal nuisance, if the defendant knowingly or recklessly creates or maintains a condition including spreading of dangerous disease that injures or endangers the safety or health of the public.’
The offence of criminal nuisance shall be a misdemeanor.
Lyonpo said that there are even calls from villagers who say that tier neighbor has come from abroad.
The minister said that she has just issued an executive order to the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs asking for it to tell the local government functionaries to the Gup level to be vigilant and report such people who are hiding their travel history.
Lyonpo said that such people who hide their travel history are putting their family and society at risk. She said that the government is also spending a huge amount of money to keep up the quarantine facilities.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said they are looking at various options to check such practices in the border gates.
As an uodate border gates were shut from the morning of 23rd February and so now any Bhutanese entering Bhutan has to be quarantined.