Wait for quarantine longer than expected

Yangyel Lhaden

A week after the Covid-19 test, Tshering Norbu is still waiting for permission to travel to Samtse.

“I’m waiting for the call from 1010,” he said.

After being stranded for 18 days, he was called for testing for Covid-19 on January 6. He said that after the test there was no information about his movement or the test result.

Anxious, he called 1010 on January 8. He was informed that the standard operating procedures (SoP) had changed and he had to undergo a 7-day quarantine.

He had not received a call about moving into quarantine so far. “Instead of keeping us waiting if clear information is provided to us we wouldn’t be this anxious,” he said.

On January 8, Prime Minister’s Office announced the revised SOP for stranded people. For emergency cases, travellers going out of Thimphu need to undergo a 3-day quarantine and other travellers have to stay seven days in quarantine.

According to the revised SOP, stranded people will have to register with 1010 public call centre and upon validation of the details of the individual, he or she would be directed to a quarantine facility. The person will undergo RT-PCR test on the eighth day and be allowed to travel if the test result is negative.

Among those stranded in Thimphu is an eight-month pregnant woman with her son. They have been waiting to return home to Chukha. She registered for emergency movement but she was discouraged for quarantine following her health condition.

She said that her husband applied for movement to Thimphu from Chukha but the call centre informed him since there were no quarantine hotels in Thimphu. So the family could go to Wangduephodrang for quarantine. She said that they declined the offer.

She is waiting for a more suitable response from 1010. “Every time I call 1010 different officials responded and I have to narrate the whole story repeatedly.” She said that systematic service delivery would be helpful.

Another stranded person, Tshering Thinley is also waiting for a call from 1010 to move into quarantine. He said that he hesitated to call for 1010 hereafter as his friends were told by people working with 1010 not to call and 1010 would call if they received directives.

Tshering Thinley had registered for movement to Tsirang as soon as the lockdown was announced. With his whole family stranded in Thimphu, he called 1010 repeatedly asking if he could get movement clearance. “As a last resort, I mailed the Cabinet and then got to test for Covid-19 on January 7.”

Later that night, he was told the SoP had changed and he could not move. “My friends who tested with me travelled to Tsirang on January 8 while I’m still stuck.”

Bikash Rai and his eight friends from Phuentsholing came to Thimphu before lockdown to work as a daily wage earner. With the lockdown still on, they said that they are running out of savings and wish to return home at the earliest.

Bikash Rai had been calling 1010 for the past two days as his calls remained unanswered. 1010 received his call yesterday and informed about the quarantine requirements. “We are waiting to be sent to quarantine.”

Most stranded people Kuensel talked to are waiting for a call from 1010 to take them to quarantine.

Kuensel couldn’t get a response from officials with 1010. 

One of the officials with PMO said that it was a lockdown and they did not encourage movement of people as they could be carrying the virus. “According to the press release sent we are allowing movement of stranded people but we could not allow everyone to go at once and stranded people would be sent slowly,” the official said.