MB Subba      

Bhutan Kuen-Nyan Party (BKP) yesterday called for a Covid-19 vaccination master plan for the country.

The party issued a press release yesterday, where the president-in-charge, Sonam Tobgay, stated that DNT government could not realise any advance purchasing agreement for the vaccine until now.

He said that 15 vaccine companies had completed the third trial of Covid-19 vaccines and the government had failed to inform the Bhutanese citizens about any diplomatic notes sent to countries or companies to procure the vaccine on time.

Sonam Tobgay said that an effective and smart government should be aiming beyond the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX (vaccination programme) which inoculate 20 percent of each country’s population. “Under this global compact, Bhutan will only receive a little over 100,000 vaccines leaving the majority of its citizens uncovered.”

However, foreign minister, Dr Tandi Dorji, said the government since May 2020 has been pursuing the vaccine with countries that are manufacturing the vaccines through Bhutanese embassies. “We are in constant touch with governments and manufacturing companies on our vaccine requirements.”

He said the health ministry had already developed two vaccine deployment guidelines. “The foreign ministry has also developed a vaccine procurement strategy for the country.”

“We are tracking the progress of more than 103 vaccines that are being developed currently,” the foreign minister said. “Bharat Biotech, Pfizer and Moderna are among the vaccines whose data were available.”

Dr Tandi Dorji said that while the WHO’s COVAX programme would guarantee vaccine coverage for 20 percent of a country’s population, the government was trying for coverage of the total population of Bhutan.

Meanwhile, BKP president-in-charge said that with no explanation to citizens of Bhutan as to how the Bhutan Telecom Ltd. employee (uncle of the girl who tested positive) acquired the coronavirus, the country is suddenly mired in an unexpected community transmission with epicentres in Thimphu and Paro resulting to a second national lockdown.

“DNT has fallen back on its promise in a panic-driven issuance of a second national lockdown despite His Majesty’s command to minimize inconvenience to the public. The decision was driven by the record of thousands of people having travelled out of Thimphu to all districts and corners of Bhutan,” the press release stated.

Sonam Tobgay said that export of the virus out of Thimphu, which has always had the highest probability of a high community transmission rate, could have been prevented if the vehicle movements were subject to tests of all the travellers before travelling out of Thimphu.

The press release accused the DNT government of failing to display transparency on a probable request made to India, the world’s largest producer of vaccines, and other reliable suppliers.

The BKP said that allowing people simply to move out of their districts by registering vehicles and passengers without a test is red tape at its zenith with the value of pointing out who had gone where after the event at best. “Hopefully, henceforth DNT will make it mandatory for all travellers out of Thimphu and other risky areas to produce a negative test certificates before travelling out of the most vulnerable communities generally at the cost of the travellers except for the most economically challenged applicants.”