The Government’s plan to construct quarantine facilities in high-risk areas deserves our praise. The Covid-19 pandemic is not going to disappear tomorrow. New variants will come even as we are stepping up with a commendable vaccination programme.

In the south of the country where we share a long and porous border with neighbouring India, positive cases are on the rise. Some dzongkhags have experienced a long lockdown because of continued detection.

And there is the shortage of quarantine facilities. The surge in the number of positive cases has made the shortage even more acute. That’s why cases are being sent to Thimphu and other safe dzongkhags for quarantine.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that 400-bedded quarantine facilities in Phuentsholing, 200-bedded each in Samtse, Samdrupjongkhar, and Gelephu would be constructed. The numbers look small but more than 65,000 people have been quarantined—at a cost of Nu 700 million so far.

The expenditure includes both for 21-mandatory quarantine and seven-day quarantine, obligatory for those travelling from high-risk to low-risk dzongkhag.

The construction of quarantine facilities doesn’t mean the hotels and guesthouses will no longer be used as quarantine facilities. There are currently at least 302 hotels that are being used as quarantine centres across dzongkhags, which also includes institutions, guesthouses, containment centres, and office halls.

It’s about easing the pressure of shortage. 

How these centres should be managed is a different matter for a different time. What we must know is that hotels in particular have, fortunately, not had to experience lay-offs because of the Royal Kidu. But even the Royal Kidu will have to face the wall going by the way some sections of our people depend on it.

“The message from His Majesty is very clear; we can’t be certain about future pandemics. We must be prepared,” Lyonchoen said. “This is because for any kind of disease infection, quarantine is a norm.”

We also know that post-Covid-19, if the centres are not needed, there is a plan to turn the quarantine facilities into affordable housing. Housing is a growing issue in many towns and cities.

Lyonchhen said that having such ‘dedicated’ quarantine facilities could also help various agencies, including private companies to get builders and skilled professionals.

Building quarantine facilities in high-risk areas could be the beginning of long-term planning that has to be the theme—the flesh and bone—of our development approach.