Tshering Palden 

Beginning today, the government is carrying out a rapid assessment to understand the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly on the vulnerable groups.

The assessment is to ensure that its ongoing and planned response measures will be better targeted based on data and analysis.

The survey will be conducted by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) in close collaboration with the Gross National Happiness Commission, labour ministry, and Tourism Council of Bhutan.

The month-long assessment will focus on people working in tourism and allied sectors in Thimphu, Paro, Punakha, Bumthang and Phuentsholing Thromde. The findings will help the government design and implement targeted interventions to benefit the most affected and vulnerable individuals.

The data collection will continue until April 16.

The surveyors will collect the data using real-time data collection tools through interviews with the respondents over the telephone and via email in keeping with physical distancing guidelines of the government.

UNDP Bhutan is supporting the assessment as a technical lead in close collaboration with UNICEF and other UN agencies in the country.

Resident Representative of UNDP Bhutan, Azusa Kubota said, “As the Royal government rolls out its economic-stimulus package and recovery plan from the Covid-19 crisis, data from such assessment will help ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable will be met in a timely and fair manner. That is why we are responding to the critical demands of the government now.”

Covid-19 has become a health crisis, signs of how it affects the social and economic lives of everyone are appearing.

Bhutan closed its doors to tourists immediately after the country detected its first Covid-19 case on March 5 in an effort to combat the spread of the disease. Covid-19 has left more than 700,000 people ill and caused over 30,000 deaths in 202 countries and territories as of yesterday morning, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The temporary restriction on the entry of tourists has hit the tourism and hospitality sector hard. Initial data shared in the media indicates that the livelihoods of about 50,000 Bhutanese depending on the sector, including hoteliers, travel agents and tour guides, remain severely affected.

The survey results will help the government devise measures to tackle the impacts in such sectors effectively.