Most shopkeepers and entertainment hubs report a drastic fall in business, especially in the last weekend when the first COVID-19 detection in Bhutan and business has not been the same since.
Shopkeepers said that despite being at odds in the general people ratio, they still had to open the shops to avoid losing out on customers.
Dorkash, 34, who runs the Amos Bakery, said, “ Despite the low turnover of people, we are still open to not lose the few customers. In terms of hygiene, we keep constant check on things.”
Restaurants expressed, likewise, saying that they did lose customers.
Kinley Pelmo, 32, Hotel Norling, said, “We have had a very few customers of late, even for the lodging services that we provide. Previously, most rooms would have been occupied but lately, there are few to none.”
Mr. Kezang, 48, K.K Restaurant, Olakha said, “We are having a hard time paying our rent as customers have deviated because of the Coronavirus news. We have heard from some customers that they do not feel secure to eat meat related items. My catering service has gone down drastically due to all this. I am in constant pressure to gain any revenue.”
Tshering Phuntsho, 39, Galaxy Internet & Videogames, Thimphu said, “There has been a decline in the number of youths coming to the shop. I think this could be because parents are more cautious during this time and even our concerns remain for the youth. Therefore, we advise them not to come if they have illness or likely symptoms. If we suspect or feel that someone is sick, we advise them to get treatment at the flu clinic or send them home. We have hand sanitizers at the entry point for everyone going in and ensure they are wearing masks. With younger children though, they tend to lose their masks and we have to advise them to get one or be at home, besides that, we have filtered water facilities and a clean toilet for our customers.”
Ugyen Choki, 31, Lugar Café said, “The Lugar theatre is to open on 12th March and until then, we have had very less business. Evidently there has been a decrease in the movement of people and vehicle and that has to be one of the reasons along with the misconception that people have about our café being open only during the movie screening. In order to ensure safe environment for eating at our café, me and the employees have been constantly cleaning the tables and have been using protective equipments like gloves, masks and sanitizers.”
Kumari, 25, who runs a beauty parlour in Thimphu said, “I am very concerned with the current situation as I rely on my customers to pay my rent. I have seen a sharp decline in customers. I am currently contacting people to provide the services at their homes to make my ends meet for the loans and rent that is due. I hope the situation becomes better especially for businesses like ours.”
Sonam Dema, 35, Tshomo Karaoke, Phuentsholing, said, “The number of people is very limited lately, but despite that, we are open for our customers.”
Lhakpa Tshering, 50, Daichee Restaurant says, “Before, we used to have bustling customers, but nowadays, I think people are more serious about the situation and the vibe has been low among our customers. We used to have a good number of people coming for lunch and to dine, but we are seeing a gradual decrease ever since the virus detection news hit the nation. We are concerned as a business unit and hopeful that things don’t remain the same or worsen. We are using hand sanitizers provided by the support of the Ministry of Health and having it placed where our customers can easily spot it.”
Yangden, 34, Tashi Delek Laphing, Thimphu said, “There’s a gradual decrease in customers ever since the first detection case, we are normally quite busy with customers. We have hand sanitizer at entry point for the customers.”
James Timsena, CEO, The Ravenox Enterprise, Paro said, “As we all knew COVID-19 was inevitable and finally reached our country, despite many procedures and initiatives taken by our government. The news shook the nation with terror. The next phase of the outbreak is profoundly uncertain. In my view, the prevalent narrative, focused on pandemic, to which both markets and policy makers have gravitated towards making more effort is a good response to the virus, but it under weighs the possibility of a more optimistic outcome. The news of the virus has affected Paro town including shops and the people here, but they all are trying their best to manage with whatever possible to prevent the contagiousness of the virus by using masks and sanitizers. Right now, we only hope for the best and that is to make sure our country will be healed and that the virus is contained.”