MoH reviewing the quarantine protocols 

Yangchen C Rinzin

The government has spent Nu 289.653 million (M) on hotels that served as quarantine facilities as of November 1.

Of the 24,148 people quarantined since March after the government announced the 21-day mandatory quarantine, 20,425 people have been discharged.

This also includes people quarantined at the facilities for seven days, which is mandatory for people travelling from high-risk dzongkhag to low risk dzongkhag. From September until November 11, more than 8,000 people were quarantined in 16 dzongkhags.

Today, there are 1,709 people in the quarantine facility, including 178 quarantined in the last 24 hours. There are 274 quarantine facilities in 19 dzongkhags except for Gasa.

The highest expenditure was spent on 58 facilities in Thimphu (Nu 120.2M), followed by 49 quarantine facilities in Paro (81.893M). The government spent Nu 44.12M in Phuentsholing that has 44 quarantine facilities.

Hoteliers offered their hotels as facility quarantine.

The government pays Nu 1,000 for a single bed and Nu 1,500 for a double bed for budget hotels. The charges increase to Nu 1,200 and Nu 2,000 for single and double beds in 3-star hotels, and it is Nu 1,500 and Nu 2,500 for 4-star hotel.

The cost is inclusive of three meals, evening snacks, and room charges. The rate is paid on a per-person-per-day basis. Meals are provided based on the menu set by the health ministry.

However, Cabinet Secretariat, which oversees the overall quarantine protocol, did not have a separate record for those people who wished to bear the expenses themselves.

Following many people showing interest in bearing their own quarantine cost, the National Covid-19 Task Force decided to extend the option of allowing individuals to pay for the quarantine facility, including the cost for RT-PCR test from October.

People were asked to deposit/donate the amount to Covid-19 response fund account directly if they wished to pay.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that as of October, the total donation had reached Nu 110M. “We’ve not touched the donation fund as of now. We don’t have a record to show if the donations were made from those coming out of quarantine facility.”

There are mixed responses from the people on government spending on quarantine facilities and its mandatory quarantine protocol.

Given the cost implication, many say that the 7-day quarantine while travelling from one dzongkhag to another is unnecessary. Some asked for how long would the government continue with the quarantine bearing the cost.

A former civil servant, Kinga Dorji, who came from Phuentsholing to Thimphu last week, said that without local transmission 7-day quarantine was not necessary. “It is only a hassle. Maybe, make it compulsory for people travelling to bear the cost.”

Another businessman, Ugyen Tshering, asked if 21-day mandatory quarantine was the only option for health ministry and suggested the government to explore other option.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo told Kuensel that the health ministry was reviewing the quarantine protocols based on the risk assessment.

“Risk assessment has to be on a continuum, as the epidemic evolves, we’ll have to strategise,” Lyonpo said. “From day one, I’ve been saying that we can’t just make something and say we’re going to follow this for life.”

The decision should evolve, she said, the way epidemic was evolving within the country and outside the country. “We’re also clinically reviewing what is happening outside, what is our data that is showing. These are definitely in the pipeline, but it’s hard to say from when we can change the quarantine protocol.”