Thimphu City

With encouraging health data Govt brings in more relaxations and softens quarantine for Bhutanese travelers

National positivity rate from flu clinics is 43 percent

The government announced additional relaxations based on the good health data so far. While for international travelers, the five days mandatory facility quarantine will continue to monitor emerging variants, in-bound Bhutanese travelers can home quarantine for fie days.  The respective regional taskforce will offer the options based on qualifying criteria with an undertaking.

All in-person meetings, conferences, seminars and training will be allowed. However, given the technology, expertise and experience gained and learned from the pandemic situation, virtual meetings, conferences, seminars, training are strongly encouraged to bring about greater efficiency and resource optimization.

All entertainment centers, including movie theaters will resume regular business with 50 percent occupancy and remain open till 11 pm.

The closing time for all other businesses will also extend from 9 pm to 11 pm.

All indoor and outdoor sporting will be permitted with spectator. But individuals showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are discouraged from taking part in any sporting activities.

All mass gathering, including religious and cultural congregations will be allowed to a maximum of 100 people, with observance of basic COVID-19 protocols such as face masks and hand washing.

Above the allowable number, organisers must seek clearance from the National COVID-19 Task Force (NC19TF).

The NC19TF requested everyone to take utmost care and continue to use face masks and practice frequent hand washing to not only help avoid COVID-19 but also other communicable respiratory diseases.

Earlier, the Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that the government was carefully observing what will happen after classes PP to VI opened from 18 April onwards.

Lyonpo said that the signs have been encouraging as the expectation was thousands of cases daily in Thimphu itself and higher number of serious cases, but this has not happened.

He said that the fourth dose of the vaccine is being rolled out.

The minister who is also the Chairman of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) said that the aim is to open up tourism for the autumn season.

He said that depending on how cases and variants play out the government would look at zero quarantine in the near future as well.

Then if things continue to go well then the next step in the future would be on opening up the borders. 

Lyonpo said the worry is that the children going to school now are younger but if cases continue to decline then the National COVID-19 Taskforce and the Cabinet can have more discussions on opening up.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said, “We are analyzing all the data and so far we are looking at a very low rate of hospitalization and severity. It is looking very promising as of now.”

Lyonpo said that the severity rate is is manageable. As of 19 April 2022 the national positivity rate from the flu clinics is around 43 percent which means that of every 100 people coming for testing there around 43 are testing positive.

The positivity rate was 19 percent on 1 April 2022 but it climbed steadily.

The numbers of tests done from 1 April 2022 onwards varies with a general declining trend. From 1 April to 9 April tests per day were between 4,000 plus and 3,000 plus.

On 11 April there was a peak of tests at 5,000 plus tests but it dropped to 4,000 plus to 3,000 plus to 2080 tests on 19 April.

The gene sequencing of the virus on 11 April with 84 samples and on 11 April 75 samples all showed Omicron BA.2 as the only known strain in Bhutan.

Lyonpo said that the bed occupancy rate of COVID beds is below 20 percent right now. It is the highest in Taba National COVID hospital but that is still below 20 percent and figures are much lower in Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Mongar COVID hospital beds.

The national cut off rate to have a lockdown was 70 percent COVID bed occupancy. 

Lyonpo said that there are three phases for Bhutan in the pandemic. The first was prevention and containment, and phase two is going on which is protection (of the vulnerable) and the future will be phase three which will have two possible scenarios.

The first and desired scenario is the endemic stage, but Lyonpo said another scenario could depend on the spread of new variants of concern in Bhutan.

On the impact of Long COVID or lingering long term effects of COVID-19 even after testing negative Lyonpo said that so far the few people who have called have reported mainly fatigue while a few have reported a tightness in the chest.

The minister said that the MoH submitted its recommendations to the National COVID-19 Taskforce.

Technical Advisory Group (TAG) member Dr Sonam Wangchuk said offices and schools are already open and so now data is available on the ground situation.

There has been a total of 20 deaths so far.

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