…limited to 50% seating capacity, but drayangs not included

Younten Tshedup 

Except for drayangs, all entertainment centres in low-risk areas were officially allowed to reopen their businesses, as of last night.

The reopening, however, comes with a set of new regulations.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), issued yesterday evening, cinema halls will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, ensuring seating arrangements in line with Covid-19 protocols.

No other entertainment centres should accommodate more than 50 heads at any given time. Owners and organisers will have to ensure that every individual entering the facility uses the Druk Trace app to keep a record of the attendance.

Those centres seeking accommodation for more than 50 heads will have to seek antigen test results with a validity of one week from every individual. “The ceiling of 25 individuals will prevail in high-risk areas, and any count beyond that shall be subjected to the approval of the local task force.”

The news came as a relief for many entertainment operators across the country, as the sector had been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic for more than a year. “Finally, some good news. We appreciate the government for considering our pleas, 

which have been going on for a while,” said a karaoke owner in Mongar.

A live-music operator in Paro said that although he was happy with the announcement, he was unsure if his business could return to its former status. “It’s been too long since we closed our business. Most of our artists have found better platforms to perform and all our customers are theirs now.”

He said that despite the government’s directive not to open entertainment centres until now, there were many who were ‘secretly’ running their businesses for a while. “Everyone knows this, including some senior government officials. Big hotels in Paro and Thimphu organise parties every weekend.”

Observers say the 9pm and 10pm curfew was applicable only on paper. “Every night I see a restaurant near me closing its shutter. But behind the closed shutter, there are groups of young and old people drinking and singing,” said a resident in Thimphu.

He added that although in principle, karaoke establishments were not allowed to operate, many bars allowed loud open singing. “If karaoke was closed over the concern of spreading the virus, these bars are equally risky, if not riskier than singing in a karaoke business.”


10pm deadline 

In the meantime, the government, since last night, has allowed the cinema halls, karaoke, discotheques, pubs, snooker, live music, and night clubs to operate until 10pm. “Drayangs will not be allowed to operate for now and a separate notification will be issued on this,” stated the press release.

Throughout the relaxation, police, the entertainment committee and other relevant agencies will carry out enhanced surveillance and monitoring. “Non-adherence to the notification will result in severe penalties, including cancellation of business licenses.”

These relaxations have not been considered for high-risk areas, given the threat from the pandemic, as per the press release. “But we are hopeful that this will all come to an end soon. Here, we also acknowledge the inconvenience the seven-day quarantine requirement has posed to our people.”

The press release stated: “It is with these measures that we are able to relax restrictions for the rest of the country and we remain grateful for your cooperation until now. We have come a long way. Let us continue with the same spirit and solidarity to put the pandemic behind us, once and for all.”