Younten Tshedup

The Residents of Thimphu Thromde took a breather after 10 days of lockdown following the government’s decision to introduce the zoning system starting yesterday.

The zoning system, which is a partial relaxation of the nationwide lockdown restriction imposed since August 11, allows residents (one from a household) to go outdoors (but only within a designated area) to buy essential commodities from identified grocery outlets.

The system works based on a movement card, which is different for different zones. Specific time is also allocated for individuals to come out of their homes.

Day one of the initiative saw hundreds of Bhutanese queue in front of designated grocery outlets in the capital yesterday. However, contrary to what many expected, the number of people visiting the outlets were relatively smaller.

Some of the shopkeepers said that not many visited the shops mainly because it was the first day. “Many expected that there would be a rush for goods and wanted to avoid the crowd,” said a shopkeeper in Norzin Lam.

About 15 people were seen waiting near a shop adjacent to the Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) towards the afternoon yesterday.

However, a national referral hospital staff, Jigme avoided the queue. “I work in the hospital and if I get infected by mingling here, I could expose the rest of my colleagues in the hospital. 

I don’t want to take the risk.”

He said that fearing the impending danger of local transmission in the capital, he wanted to stock essential for his family. “If I have to work from the hospital, I want to keep enough ration for my family.”

Breather for residents

Many expressed their gratitude to His Majesty The King and the government for relaxing the lockdown.

While the relaxation came as a relief for some as they could replenish their food stocks at home, many were just happy to be outside after 10 locking inside their homes.

“While it is inconvenient to stay locked inside for a long time, we understand the importance of this lockdown,” said a resident in Olakha.

“Relaxations like this are equally important to keep the public mentally stable.”

Another resident said that although the government has facilitated door-to-door delivery services of essential goods, the zoning system provided more liberty to the public. “However, we understand the importance of staying home in this situation and we will fully cooperate with the government to control the spread of the virus.”


While the first day of the relaxation came to an end without much issue, there were a few confusions regarding the opening of shops.

Lhatshog Tshongkhang (Shop No 7) in Motithang that was identified as one of the shops that can operate during the zoning system was asked to close after 30 minutes of operation yesterday.

The proprietor said that a team of De-Suup came to the shop and asked them to close after they attended to only two customers in the morning.

“There seems to be some confusion. We closed the shop for visitors that kept coming and resumed with our regular delivery services.”

Similarly, My Mart shop in Chubachu was identified as one of the outlets for the second day (today) in the list circulated by the Department of Trade. However, people started visiting the shop on the first day.

An employee at the store said that they could not verify with the agencies concerned on the opening schedule of the shops. Those people who arrived at the store with the movement cards were allowed to shop.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi said that similar zoning plans for other thromdes and dzongkhags would also be started.