Considering the Covid-19 situation in the region and sporadic reports of positive cases from quarantine facilities in the country, Sarpang dzongkhag’s Covid-19 task force revised protocols for quarantine hotels.

The task force decided that hotels identified as quarantine facilities should not do catering and allow walk-in customers with immediate effect.

It also decided that foreign workers and Bhutanese who returned from other countries should not use veranda during the quarantine period.

Public or visitors are also not allowed in the quarantine hotels.

However, the task force’s new protocols received mixed reactions from hoteliers providing the quarantine facilities for routine travellers.

A hotel owner in Gelephu, Jamtsho, said the decision would help other restaurants in the town not identified for facility quarantine and have been struggling to sustain for a long time.

He runs a facility quarantine in the town.

“It was difficult to ensure people practice social distancing when they were allowed in the restaurant. Only some customers follow required norms,” he said. “But there were no contacts between regular customers and those in quarantine.”

Jamtsho said it would be better if hoteliers are provided a day to prepare for the quarantine. “People complain rooms are not cleaned. We don’t get time to prepare.”

Before the task force implemented revised protocols for the quarantine hotels, his hotel provided restaurant service to customers.

However, many quarantine hotel owners said that it would be difficult for them to sustain by running facility quarantine only, reasoning the number of people placed in quarantine were not uniform.  

Hotelier, Beydu Maya Batarai from Gelephu said that it would be difficult to pay the rent by running facility quarantine alone. “Allowing take-away service would help us. We have rice and water stocked. The decision came suddenly. We are not sure how to use the stocks now,” she said.

She said that hotel staff follow strict protocols and there were no contacts with those in the quarantine. “It would be difficult for us to sustain without running the restaurant.”

Another hotelier, Ugyen Rabten, said that the new protocol was copy-pasted from protocols in Thimphu where Bhutanese returnees and foreign workers were quarantined.

“It’s a good initiative for the country but there is a need to see the ground reality. We are short of quarantine hotels for routine travellers. We never know for how long we will have to run this quarantine facility,” he said.

Another hotelier, Nima Dorji, said that they were asked to use the back door to avoid contacting those staying in the quarantine.

“We received people staying in quarantine for two days. Some stay for three days, especially drivers. If the number of people staying in quarantine is not consistent, it would be difficult to sustain,” he said.

He added that four people run the hotel. “Two would be busy in the kitchen. It would be difficult to change staff every 30 days. There are no contacts with people in the quarantine,” said Nima Dorji.

However, the task force revised this protocol and advised maintain zero contact with those in quarantine and minimum contacts with the family members on May 21.

According to the new protocol, quarantine hotels meant for foreign workers and Bhutanese returnees must identify drop and pick-up points for hotel essential supplies.

All supplies for the hotel or patients should be dropped at designated pick-up points outside the quarantine facility without coming in contact with the supplying team.

Meanwhile, more than 10,000 people registered for quarantine meant for routine travellers in the past five months in Gelephu. There are 31 hotels providing facility quarantine today.

By Nima | Gelephu