Police investigating Covid-19 positive patient for breaching protocol

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Anyone who breaches nationwide lockdown protocol will be prosecuted and would incur hefty fines in terms of quarantine and related costs, according to the Attorney General Lungten Dubgyur.

The attorney general said that 45 (33 alone in Thimphu) cases had breached the lockdown protocol as of January 6, involving 122 individuals.

He said that the Office of the Attorney General would charge the defaulters with Criminal Nuisance, Section 410 of the Penal Code of Bhutan and Breach of Public Order and Tranquillity (Section 448) of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

According to Section 410, a defendant is guilty of the offence of criminal nuisance if the defendant knowingly or recklessly creates or maintains a condition including spreading a dangerous disease that injures or endangers the safety or health of the public.

The offence is graded fourth degree, which is liable for a prison term of between three and five years.

Section 448 states that if the defendant purposely fails to abide by the government’s orders issued in the interest of public safety, public order and tranquillity, it will be graded as a petty misdemeanour liable for imprisonment of less than one year and more than three months.

Attorney general said that the defendant would also be liable to reinstitute the expenditure for 21 days’ quarantine. He added that the OAG would also charge and prosecute people for aiding and abetting under Section 125 of Penal Code of Bhutan 2004.

“The situation is becoming quite severe, and we can’t take risk because the protocol breach would endanger lives of people,” attorney general said. “The cases related to Covid-19 are considered non-compoundable.”

The OAG has prosecuted 139 Covid-19 related cases since the closure of international borders on March 23 last year and first nationwide lockdown in August last year involving 239 defendants.

The OAG has convicted 75 cases and imprisoned for a maximum of 15 years. Another 57 cases are still pending with the court since the cases could not process due to second nationwide lockdown.

The attorney general said that the defendants could appeal to the high court. However, only about four cases have appealed so far.

He said the police are investigating a case where an individual who tested positive had visited several locations including some places away from their zone, despite existing lockdown protocol.

The individual had tested positive from a flu clinic in Thimphu on January 6. The health ministry had traced around 50 people as the individual’s close contacts.

“For the uniform application of law, we’ll be investigating the person and charge for breaching the protocol,” Lungten Dubgyur said. “Police will investigate how he managed to breach the protocol, visit from one zone to another, where he went and why.”

He added that the police would also investigate whether other people were involved in aiding or soliciting him to visit from one zone to another.

The person would also be liable for treatment expense and expenses for his contacts’ treatment if the contact tests positive. The person will also be charged for the different counts depending on if his contacts test positive.

Meanwhile, the zoning team has reminded people to stringently follow the movement pass guidelines since there is a great risk of spreading the virus resulting in extended lockdown in Thimphu, according to the press release.

The press release stated that penalty would be applied for violation of the guidelines into two categories, a minor violation and major violation.

A minor violation will include entering zone(s) other than your zone, going out during a non-assigned time block, more than one person going out with a card, and going out without a card.

It would also fall under minor violation if more than one person comes out with a card, going to other people’s house, and not wearing a facemask.

For the minor violation, DeSuups will counsel the violators on the use of movement pass and confiscate the card for the first time violation. DeSuups will confiscate the card for three days for second violation, and violation would be considered major if violated for third time and confiscate the card for a week.

It will be treated as a major violation if one uses non-authorised or fake movement pass and the case will be reported to the police. The movement pass of the associated household will be confiscated for the duration of the lockdown.

The case will be also reported to police if an unauthorised vehicle is used during the lockdown.