Choki Wangmo

 In the first phase of the transition to a new normal, all businesses including informal businesses, street vendors, snooker rooms and video game parlours will be allowed to operate till 9pm starting next month.

However, entertainment centres such as karaoke, drayangs, night clubs, pubs and movie theaters will be considered in the subsequent phases as the risk of spread of the disease in these establishments are higher.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering yesterday said that the government was confident and people are well informed about the safety measures with a strong health surveillance team in place. But to refrain from going out, people are advised to avail online and delivery services. Businesses should also follow Covid-19 prevention and safety guidelines and protocols and ensure adequate distance among customers and disallow crowding.

Starting today, sports centres – stadiums, gyms, yoga, dance studios, rubber tracks and facilities for traditional games – will reopen but tournaments and spectators are not allowed to avoid crowding.    

“Sports and fitness facilities should ensure minimum attendance at a time. For archery, it will be 15 people. No dancers or onlookers will be allowed,” Lyonchhen said.

Public transport and taxis can carry passengers to full seating capacity from next month, but passengers must use face masks. The Road Safety Transport Authority will issue advisories.

Religious functions and social events like tendrels, birthdays and inaugurals will be limited to family members and close circle of associates while the religious sites and in-charge should monitor and discourage crowds.

Public parks and public places will also open.

From June 22, all government, corporate and allied agencies can formally discontinue “work from home” but the Royal Civil Service Commission can make exceptions. Agencies are also encouraged to minimise interactions and continue using technology for meetings and other official correspondences.

Lyonchhen said that the relaxation of strict measures will increase the pressure on frontline workers, but it would benefit the country. “Although the relaxation of the restrictions doesn’t mean extra risk of local transmission, in case of the risk of local transmission, the government would impose measures like regional localised lockdown,” he said.

Phase II of the transition will be announced in about a month’s time. In subsequent phases, the government will review and inform its considerations on other restrictions in the coming months.

“By lifting existing restrictions, which will be done in phases, we are convinced there is enough room and opportunity to wade forward, without risking the spread of coronavirus,” a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office stated.

The measures are, however, bound to change should there be evidence of local transmission. Meanwhile, the government will step up health surveillance to ensure prevention of the virus.