Easing the lockdown from today in three phases

… after 21 days of lockdown 

Yangchen C Rinzin

Except for Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar, and Samtse, people in other parts of the country will be allowed to come out of their homes from today as the government ends the nationwide lockdown.

However, individuals or families will be allowed to only walk or ride a cycle for the first three days.

People are advised to practice physical distancing unless a person is assisting an elderly or a child in the family.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering announced yesterday that the government would lift the lockdown in three phases learning from the experience of the past 21 days spread over 10 days from today.

The first three days will also allow more relaxation of essential activities, the opening of more designated shops and restaurants, while allowing families to walk in the localities. This means the movement within the respective dzongkhag is allowed.

In phase II, from September 4, public transport such as buses and taxis will be allowed to carry half the passenger capacity within the dzongkhag.

The movement of private cars within the dzongkhag will be allowed only from September 7, in the final phase.

Movement of vehicles beyond the dzongkhag will be allowed only from September 11.

“The movement beyond dzongkhag must seek prior permission from the Police,” Lyonchhen said. “This is important as we realised that it is difficult to trace people who travel from one dzongkhag to another.”

The vehicles would be allowed to carry only 50 percent of passenger capacity unless minors and elderlies from the same family.

Lyonchhen also announced that institutions like RBA, RBP, RBG, IMTRAT, and Project DANTAK will operate in self-containment for 10 days.

“As they’ve worked at the frontline and were somehow exposed, there is a risk. So, the health ministry will conduct tests from tomorrow and if the results are negative, then they’d be free to move.”

  

The local authorities and taskforces will continue to facilitate the transfer of stranded passengers as per the existing practice, according to the press release from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Workplaces

All offices will be allowed to open and operate full time only from September 7. The press release from PMO stated that until then, management should prepare offices to operate within the Covid-19 norms like physical distancing. The offices would be required to keep options of “work from home” or introduce a shift system.

Business entities

Additional shops catering to essentials like grocery and pharmaceutical will be allowed to open and shopkeepers will have to continue practising Covid-19 safety protocols.  Lyonchhen appealed to the public that given the associated risks, shopkeepers must open shops only if necessary.

“Those restaurants and eateries who have delivery or takeaway services can start from today. But they will not be allowed to have sit-in customers at all times.”

The business entities must close by 9pm.

Sports

The press release stated that only non-contact sports like badminton and tennis would be allowed. Sports like swimming, archery and snooker or that involves exposure and close contacts will not be allowed during the unlocking phase.

Tournament of any kind of games would be disallowed while Bhutan Olympic Committee will determine the list of sports that are permissible during the three phases of lockdown.

Public gathering

No social events like birthday, wedding, promotions, official dinners and functions will be allowed until further notice. Cremation and funeral rites will be limited to close family circles with the authorisation from the local authorities.

Although visiting spiritual sites would be allowed during the entire unlocking phases, outdoor activities like picnic and hiking will be restricted.

Construction

Construction work will be allowed only within the premises where workers live at the site, and the ration and essentials must be provided to the workers. However, the transfer of raw materials to worksites will be allowed only after the third day when the movement of vehicles would be permitted.

All the easing initiatives are expected to lead to a new normal that is conducive for the society to operate economic and livelihood activities while ensuring health safety, the press release stated.

“This press release should serve as notice to the law enforcement agencies to ensure regulation and compliance on the ground.”

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