Since the government implemented quarantining to avoid Covid-19 risks, it has quarantined about 65,250 people at a cost of Nu 610 million (M) as of May 21 according to the Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.
The expenditure includes both 21-mandatory quarantine and seven-day quarantine, which is mandatory for those travelling from high-risk to low-risk dzongkhag.
There are about 302 quarantine centres across dzongkhags, which also includes institutions, guest houses, containment centres, and a few office halls.
As of today, more than 500 frontline workers are engaged in managing 270 quarantine facilities.
There are about 700 people quarantined currently.
The government spent Nu 226M for about 63 facilities (including isolation and de-isolation) in Thimphu followed by Paro which has about 54 quarantine facilities incurring a cost of Nu 136.3M.
The services of 54 quarantine facilities in Phuentsholing cost Nu 124M and in Samtse Nu 14.986M was spent on nine quarantine centres.
Hoteliers came forward to offer their hotels for facility quarantine when the government made 21-day mandatory quarantine for people returning from outside last year. The government had agreed to pay hoteliers to support them and to avoid laying off staff.
New rates have been applied after hoteliers agreed. The government now pays Nu 850 per person for star-rated hotels and Nu 700 for budget hotels instead of Nu 1,000 to Nu 2,000 based on the hotel’s rating.
The cost is inclusive of three meals, evening snacks, and room charges. The rate is paid on a per-person-per-day basis. Meals are provided based on the menu set by the health ministry.
An official from the Cabinet Secretariat, who looks after the quarantine facilities, said that hoteliers are still volunteering to offer quarantine despite reduced rates.
The team uses facilities on a rotation to give hoteliers an equal chance. However, some of the hotels are yet to be used as quarantine facilities in some dzongkhags like Punakha and Wangdue, which are kept on standby.
This was also because seven-day quarantine is mandatory only in southern dzongkhags so hotels in other dzongkhags are usually not used.
“Since some people prefer to be quarantined in Thimphu for seven days and hotels are not enough in the south, people are quarantined in Thimphu. This is why Thimphu has the highest expenditure,” an official said.
However, the official added that there are enough quarantine facilities in Thimphu and Paro for now. Most of the time the destination for people who travel from the South is Thimphu.
After completing quarantine, the hoteliers submit the bill to the focal officers and after the verification, the bill is then submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat. The focal officials from the Cabinet then submit to the finance ministry and the payment is released to the hotel.
The official said that some hotels withdrew for renovation or maintenance and some preferred to offer hotels for workshops and training.
Hoteliers shared that often those staying in the hotel damage either furniture and do not care for rooms and toilets. Some of the hoteliers said that even those people who work as frontline workers do not take care of the rooms, which discourage hoteliers from taking in people for quarantine.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 response fund account was created after many had expressed their solidarity to combat Covid-19. As of May 13, the total fund collected was Nu 122.833M.
However, the government spent Nu 120M to procure Covid-19 test kits.
By Yangchen C Rinzin
Edited by Tshering Palden