Tshering Palden 

Except for seriously ill patients returning from treatment, the government will place all those arriving in the country in quarantine centres.

The health minister issued a public notification yesterday which comes into effect immediately. Mothers returning after childbirth overseas would also be exempted.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said that despite repeated pleas from the government, a few on home quarantine have violated the strict agreed conditions of home quarantine.

“This is not at all acceptable,” she said, so for the safety of those in quarantine and the society we are compelled to resort to deploying police to enforce those conditions.

There are 1,917 Bhutanese in 81 quarantine centres in Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Paro as of yesterday.

Should any person on home quarantine be found outside their designated room, then they would be charged with the provisions of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

The notification also restricts the individual from mixing with family members and going to public gatherings or work.

If they develop cough, fever, shortness of breath, respiratory or any other illness, call 2121 immediately. They will be monitored by a policeman and a health worker every day.

Children will also be not exempted and would be quarantined with a parent at the centres.

As of yesterday, there were 299 Bhutanese in home-quarantine.

Those who violate these conditions would be charged with criminal nuisance as per section 410, failure to assist lawful authority as per section 428, and the breach of public order and tranquillity as per section 448 of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

Section 410 states that a person would be guilty of a criminal nuisance, if the person knowingly or recklessly creates or maintains a condition including spreading of dangerous diseases that cause injury or endangers the safety or health of an individual or the public.  The offence is a misdemeanour.

Section 428 states that a defendant would be guilty of the offence of failure to assist lawful authority, if he/she could aid the lawful authority without risk of bodily injury or property to the defendant and fails to aid the lawful authority in the prevention or suppression of a breach of peace in this case, among others. The offence is graded as a petty misdemeanour.

An individual would be charged for the breach of Public Order and tranquillity, under section 448 of the Penal Code, if the defendant purposely fails to abide by the orders of the Royal Government issued in the interest of public safety, public order and tranquillity. The offence is a petty misdemeanour.