MB Subba

The zoning of the Thimphu Thromde will enable residents to go outdoors (but only within a designated area) to buy essential commodities.

However, the delivery of household commodities by Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) and authorised retailers will not be stopped, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said at a press conference on August 16.

He said that consumers should order commodities either through phone calls or online services. But he added that the stores would not be able to provide everything that people were looking for.

There are more than 20 authorised retailers, including the FCBL, NN Tshongkhang, Dagana Trading Centre, Wangchuk Mart, and shoponline.bt, catering to the needs of households in the capital.

Each retailer or service provider has been allocated designated areas beyond which they cannot deliver their services.

The retailers have been overwhelmed during the lockdown and are unable to meet the demand of customers.

However, some retailers said that they did not see significant increases in sales turnover due to the physical work involved in reaching the commodities to the customers.

Proprietor of 8 Eleven, BB Gurung, said that the store made more than 300 deliveries in the Motithang area on a daily basis.

He said that most of his employees were on duty despite the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Another retailer said that although the government had encouraged them to accept only digital payments, many people were not used to the online payment system. Items ordered are mostly rice, cooking oil, milk powder, meat products, and milk powder.

An authorised cooking gas supplier, Kinley, said that he delivered about 30 cylinders of LPG on a day. “The demand dropped slightly today,” he said yesterday.

There are about 11 authorised LPG service providers in Thimphu.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) has identified and listed 21 commodities, including butter, cheese, sugar, noodles, soup items, sanitary napkins and pulses, as essential items. Meat products have not been included in the list of essential items.

The MoEA in collaboration with Thimphu Thromde has informed that face-to-face shopping and physical contact should be avoided.

The ministry has notified that strict health protocols should be observed including minimum distance and use of facemasks while delivering the commodities. The authorized shops delivering the essential items should not open shops for normal business.

According to the notification, customers must receive their goods within four hours of confirmed order. However, some customers said that it took them about a day to get their orders delivered.

Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) records show that there were 426,448 digital domestic payment transactions worth Nu 377.91 million (M) in the first two days of the lockdown.