Thukten Zangpo

The Construction Association of Bhutan (CAB) asked the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) to use hotels as quarantine facilities to bring in foreign workers for the construction industry.

The association wrote an appeal letter on October 28, which stated that construction firms still face a labour shortage because of limited quarantine facilities.

The CAB’s president, Tshering Yonten, said the association will look for hotels if the government approves their request. “Contractors will pay the charges and the government could deploy desuups and police.”

He said contractors and private constructions are given the least preference when allotting quarantine facilities in border towns. “If we wait, construction firms won’t be able to get foreign workers until monsoon season next year, and it will hamper progress and delay projects.”

However, MoWHS minister Dorji Tshering said if the contractors want to use hotels as quarantine facilities, they have to seek approval from the National Covid-19 Task Force (NC19TF) or the Ministry of Health.

 “There are no vacant quarantine hotels in Phuentsholing, Samtse, and Gelephu, but there are a few in Samdrupjongkhar, and we have asked to allocate them,” said Lyonpo.

Tshering Yonten said contractors are racing to complete the contract work despite labour and material shortages. “Contractors would rather pay to bring in foreign workers than pay a penalty for the delayed work and termination.”

He said that if the interest waiver and Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu are lifted, most of the contractors would be bankrupt.

Meanwhile, the NC19TF decided to allow import of foreign workers both for government, autonomous, private, and corporate entities; however, the import of the workers has to be reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources on October 1.

The regional or dzongkhag Covid-19 task force will approve the allocation of quarantine facilities based on their allotment criteria, and the employers should seek necessary approval for quarantine facilities prior to importing foreign workers or expatriates.

The NC19TF also decided that to use quarantine facilities in Thimphu and Paro, employers have to liaise with the quarantine management team in the Cabinet Secretariat.