Shopkeepers in Thimphu can cross over to other mega zones to operate businesses after obtaining a one-time e-pass beginning today. The e-pass can be used to move between home and their shops every day.

This and a host of relaxations were announced around midnight yesterday.

The relaxations also apply to those dzongkhags that are in a similar relaxation phase, a public notification from the Prime Minister’s Office stated.

Except for entertainment centres, all business entities, including snooker and video game parlours can operate. Restaurants with takeaway and delivery services can open. “All businesses must close at 7pm”

Taxis can operate within the mega-zone. “However, it is allowed to ferry only people of the same cohort (family members, friends or colleagues) and are not allowed to pick up other passengers along the way.” Passengers are also reminded to refrain from travelling with strangers in the same taxi.

Taxis could crossover to other mega-zones only for passengers with emergency reasons such as medical, death and vaccination purposes. While an e-pass is not required, police and de-suups on duty at the border of mega zones would ask for convincing evidence like medical documents.

Residents can move within the respective mega-zone, however, private cars are not allowed.

The RT-PCR validity for the drivers of all goods carriers, including trucks and all other utility vehicles is increased from seven to 14 days.

“In keeping with the cautious transition to the new phase of Covid-19 management, more relaxations have been announced,” the notification said.

According to the public announcement from the PMO on March 13, these relaxations were slated to commence only in the second week (after March 21) or the third week (after March 28) of the gradual opening up. The first batch of relaxations began on March 13 after the end of the board examinations of Class 10 and 12 students.

According to the PMO’s public notification, the trend over the days has been encouraging with most individuals choosing to remain indoors, despite relaxation within zones in Thimphu.

“A similar pattern was observed across the districts with community cases. This merited reconsidering the relaxation beyond the zone, without having to adhere to the earlier timeline,” the notification stated.

The nationwide hospitalisation rate today is 0.18 percent.

The government will make further announcements after carefully studying the ground situation in the coming days, irrespective of the timeline of relaxations announced earlier.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering earlier said that with the new Covid-19 management strategy as the Covid-19 situation improves, opportunities for people to resume their livelihood activities would open up gradually.

“As the nation graduates into the second phase of Covid-19 management, with more focus on symptomatic cases and hospitalisation rates, we would like to reiterate here that our priority remains in saving every life from the disease,” the public notification from PMO stated.

“The process has begun, and we urge every single Bhutanese to support us in successfully overcoming the critical period.”

Numerous measures under the new strategy have been already implemented such as the red build/ flat and clusters.

Lyonchhen told the media on March 14 that with the new phase in place, people should not worry about the increasing number of positive cases in the country since the concept of maintaining zero Covid in the community has changed. “We should now worry about the number of patients requiring hospitalisation.”

However, the priority remains not to lose any more lives to the pandemic.

Residents have to continue wearing face masks, avoiding gathering and following all the norms that help from contracting the disease.