Govt. approval must for local governments and agencies

MB Subba

The government has not asked private enterprises to close shops in wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) scare. But it advises people to refrain from visiting public places, including entertainment centres.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji clarified this yesterday at the press briefing on COVID-19 at the WWF office.

Some private enterprises, including nightclubs, in the capital have suspended their operation as a precautionary measure after the country confirmed its first COVID-19 case in a 76-year-old US tourist on March 6.

But the foreign minister said that the government has decided that no private enterprises and entertainment enterprises such as discotheques, cinema halls, drayangs and karaoke should be closed, as the number of the confirmed COVID-19 case was only one.

The government, he said, will ask private enterprises to close only if the situation worsens. “But as of now, people should refrain from going to public places like clubs.”

The government, he said, has asked local governments and other agencies to coordinate with the government when it comes to COVID-19 and that all precautionary measures had to be approved by the government.

The foreign minister said that the government had revoked the announcement of the Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority (BICMA) to discontinue the Druk Gi Kalapingka as it was not routed through the government.

The BICMA on March 8 had notified the public about discontinuing them through bulk SMSes.

“The singing reality show could be held with participants and judges. The revoking of the BICMA’s decision could also give people some sense of normalcy,” he said.

The COVID-19 scare has already hit the entertainment centres due to a dip in customers since the confirmation of the country’s first case. Some private enterprises that had remained closed for a few days have opened while some are planning to open soon.

Some local governments and dzongkhag administrations had reportedly come up with their plans and measures to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus in their jurisdictions.

However, the foreign minister clarified that such initiatives should be approved by the health ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). He said that the government revoked a few such initiatives for coordination purposes.

In one of the incidences, the government recently intervened in the Mongar dzongkhag’s efforts to confine about 11 British tourists in their hotels and test them for COVID-19.

“The initiative by the dzongkhag administration was well intended and everyone wants to do something in his or her own capacity. But it was not in keeping with the best practices of the WHO,” he said.

Citing WHO protocols, Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said that tests are required to be conducted for those showing symptoms.

The government, he said, had taken such a stance to streamline the information delivery to the public. “We have formed a COVID-19 media team with focal persons identified from the health ministry and their contacts in the respective media houses.”

The foreign minister also said that if a notification on COVID-19 comes, the media house should ask if it is cleared by the PMO or the health ministry.