Govt. say the protocol has allowed the normal functioning for rest of the country 

Younten Tshedup 

The government will not lift the seven-day mandatory quarantine for those travelling from high-risk to low-risk areas for now.

The seven-day quarantine was implemented as part of the unlocking phase in September last year after the first nationwide lockdown.

After every lockdown, people have been demanding the government do away with the protocol, stating that there was no active transmission of the virus.

Today, a person travelling from a high-risk (southern dzongkhags) to a lower risk area must stay in quarantine for seven days before they can travel.  This, many say, causes major inconvenience and affects their businesses.

However, Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that, despite the inconveniences, the protocol for the seven-day quarantine will not change for now.

Lyonpo said that it was important to know that the risk of the disease (Covid-19) along the border was still high. “The porous border poses a significant threat to the importation of the disease.”

She said that the seven-day duration provided health workers adequate time to detect cases, should there be any. “About 90 percent of the cases can be detected within these seven days.”   

Lyonpo said that the seven-day protocol has been effective in controlling frequent outbreaks in the country and has also enabled the running of businesses including schools in the rest of the country. “Once the vaccination is complete, there’ll be a new protocol.”

Reaffirming the need to continue with the protocol, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the threat of Covid-19 still exists. “Our people think that the threat of Covid-19 is gone. But to us, the threat is ever-present, and has increased, in fact.”

Lyonchhen said that the number of cases worldwide has increased and, in the process, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated with some of the new variants being more contagious.

He said that, while the new variants have not reached the country yet, it was already spreading in India rapidly. “In this light, we’ve put a double layer of surveillance with the seven-day quarantine protocol.”

Lyonchhen explained that the first layer of surveillance was at the border gates, which were closed on March 23 last year.  He said that, while the government made sure no illegal border crossing was allowed, in the event of such incidences, the second layer of surveillance provided by the seven-day quarantine protocol, ensured the disease (if any) did not spread to the rest of the country.

The prime minister said that he had seen and heard the inconveniences of the public due to the protocol, but at this stage, he said that the government could not remove the protocol. “The reason we’re able to allow the rest of the country to operate fully is because of this protocol. If this is done away with, it might lead to another outbreak, where everything will be stalled again.”

Meanwhile, a sero survey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research found that nearly one in five Indians was infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  Media reports also suggest that the Indian subcontinent is possibly heading for a new Covid wave.

India has seen a resurgence in the number of Covid-19 cases with the country recording over 16,000 new cases and 100 plus fatalities in the last two days.