Bhutanese quarantined and tested for Covid-19 have the option to pay the quarantine charges and bear the cost of the RT-PCR test starting next month. The decision follows what the task force calls “overwhelming offers from the general public” to bear the cost.

This is a good gesture from the public knowing that the cost of containing the virus is digging a big hole in the government coffer. The government, as of September 17 has spent about Nu 248.27 million on hotels that served as quarantine facilities for 14,667 people. The number would have increased by a few hundreds as more are quarantined since the government last released the figures.

Following the notification from the task force, there is a lot of confusion although the notification is clear and simple. Many assumed that the cost of quarantine would be passed over to individuals. The option is open unlike what many misunderstood—the government will still continue to support the cost of rooms, meals and the test for people who cannot afford. There is no compulsion.

The notification is talking about people who are travelling from high-risk areas like Phuentsholing to low risk areas. As travellers would have to undergo a mandatory week-long quarantine, there is a huge cost involved. It seems some had offered to bear the cost of the quarantine and the test.

There are many options. Not travelling from high risk to low risk or to the high risk is the best. Health authorities are pleading with people to not travel, unless it is unavoidable. Every single individual returning from a high-risk zone is an additional cost to the government. With schools reopening and students from high-risk areas relocated, quarantining thousands of students is costly.

The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed all our plans. If the economy has been battered by the impact of the pandemic, cost of the available resources is diverted to containing Covid-19. We have, even if it costs us dearly, managed well. The number of people testing positive may have increased and the restrictions caused inconvenience, but we have managed to keep the people safe. There is not a single death reported because of Covid-19 when the global death has touched the million mark yesterday.

If there are people who want to share the cost, it should be welcomed. Individually, it is about Nu 10,000 for a week-long quarantine and the cost of the test. We have people who could not only afford but also waste, higher amount, for instance, in a session of card games or in a drayang or a karaoke. 

More than anything, it is contributing to the country when the country is going through a pandemic times. We have seen, since March, how Bhutanese came forward with contributions, in cash and kind. That was when we had just a few cases in the safety of the quarantine facilities.

The expenditure has increased. We detected 280 as of yesterday. We are doing community surveillance, we have to manage containment facilities and the number of people having to undergo quarantine has increased. Take for example the students and the frontliners returning home.

We always talk about serving the Tsawa-Sum in our small capacities. Sharing the cost of containing the pandemic would be a great service. We can silently write a cheque for a week’s quarantine and testing cost and help the government. We need not make an appointment with the Lyonchhen, take a picture and put it on social media or call the media to cover how much or what they contributed.