MB Subba

To avoid situations stranded people faced, the Opposition Party has recommended the government to develop better and standard protocols and procedures for facilitating both emergency and normal travels.

“It is understood that the lack of clear protocol and procedures, rather uncertain protocols, have caused more confusion and frustration than the lack of willingness to support them at all,” it states.

This is one of the party’s nine recommendations submitted to the government on January 16 through the Prime Minister’s Office to improve the management of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown.

On the issue of daily wage workers who face the problem of livelihood during lockdowns, the Opposition recommended that a mechanism should be developed to extend basic support to them, if they are not covered under any scheme currently.

The Opposition states that given that around 204,369 people live in Thimphu and Paro combined, it has been feared that the prolonged lockdown, apart from seriously impacting the livelihood of a sizable segment of low and daily wage income people, could aggravate the livelihood of some marginal middle income people.

To improve accessibility of essential items during the lockdown, especially for those scheduled for shopping in afternoons and evenings, the Opposition has recommended that more shops should be opened. It also states that the issue of high prices should be addressed through a proper study of the problem.

Stating that vaccine procurement has become an issue of public apprehension due to lack of clarity and transparency on procurement plans, the party has recommended the government to earnestly work on “smart vaccine procurement plan” bearing in mind the importance of uniformity and equity in vaccine and vaccination coverage.

The Opposition has also recommended the government to revisit the agencies to be involved in the logistics at the Paro International airport and frame clear delineation and delegation of responsibilities to improve the transportation and quarantine protocol.

It has asked the government to develop synchronised and efficient systems and protocols for inter-dzongkhag as well as intra-dzongkhag disease surveillance to prevent future community transmission. “A comprehensive mechanism and protocols for efficient inter-dzongkhags transportation of agriculture produce, particularly to urban centres have to be developed.”

According to the Opposition, with the enforcement of Covid-19 protocols recently, home cooked food are disallowed for in-patients while hospital food are still reportedly of poor quality. It recommends revisiting the SOP and improving the quality of in-patient food.

The strength of monitoring officials at mineral export sites should be enhanced to increase export of minerals, the Opposition said. “Given that this sector is one of the only few sectors sustaining domestic revenue, we should do everything possible to support and augment export by providing adequate monitoring officials and escort facilities at the borders.”

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who is a member of the National Covid-19 Task Force, said that all the Covid-19 protocals will be reviewed and amended wherever necessary. He said that most of issues are addressed.

On the issue of stranded people, the foreign minister said that the normal protocol, which involves a 7-day quarantine period, was being followed. He said that no shortages of monitoring officials were faced at export sites and that exports of mines and minerals in fact had increased.

The Opposition Party had come up with the recommendations at a two-day virtual meeting held recently.

Opposition Leader Dorji Wangdi said that the party would continue to provide recommendations and alternative views to the government on issues concerning the management of the pandemic.

The move comes amid questions about the Opposition’s alleged silence on the problems that emerged with the enforcement of the second nationwide lockdown since December 22 last year.

It was learnt that the party wanted to refrain from criticising the government although it was not unhappy with the government’s handling of the situation.

The Opposition had failed to find its role in the management of the Covid-19 situation as decisions were taken by the National Covid-19 Task Force, which is chaired by the prime minister.