Yangchen C Rinzin 

Following the nationwide lockdown on August 11, many people are stranded in various parts of the country because of restrictions on vehicle movement.

Many had come for a day or two for their personal work, to attend a cremation, sports matches, and job interviews, among other reasons.

Some have no place to stay while others are stuck in hotels and many are staying with relatives.

Many people complained that while they tried to get help, they either could not reach the right people or were asked to call various numbers without any solution. Some even complained of concerned authorities allowing travel to a few selected people.

One of the stranded persons in Thimphu said that expecting lockdown would lift in two days, he put up with his relatives but now with more positive cases, he was worried.

“I can’t return home to Paro and its burden on relatives. If I call for help I’m asked to call another person then the person directs me to another person. I am confused.”

Many shared that they are confused as to who they should ask for help.

While different dzongkhag administrations are trying to resolve the issue, it has been challenging with no proper direction and due to movement restrictions.

Thimphu Dzongkhag alone recorded more than 3,000 people stranded yesterday. In one of the incidents, a father stuck in one of the hotels with his 3-year-old daughter requested the dzongkhag for food since the hotel’s kitchen was closed.    

Thimphu dzongkhag started compiling the details from yesterday and the administration would seek advice from the government on how to assist.

A few were accommodated in the dzongkhag guest house on the first day of lockdown. Many enquired when they would be allowed to leave and if they would be quarantined once they are home.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during the press briefing yesterday said that while the government understood the situation, it was not possible to let everyone travel at once.

“The government is looking into the issue,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that wherever possible, the government has instructed them to travel. On August 12, all those stranded in between were released.

“But many who had come for their personal works, we couldn’t release all as requested,” Lyonchhen said. “We cannot let everyone travel due to protocols and people should bear the inconveniences.”

Similarly, in another incident, about seven trucks that were stopped at Babesa in Thimphu were let go.

There are 74 vehicles stranded at Rinchending in Phuentsholing to go to different dzongkhags. Lyonchhen said that until they manage to arrange testing kits, conduct the Covid-19 tests and declare them as negative, they would not be allowed to move.

“Such restrictions are only for the community’s purpose. We’re allowing movement only to genuine and emergency cases.”

Lyonchhen added all the stranded cases would be dealt on a case by case basis and critical cases are always given permission to travel.

“We understand that they are in the problem but please consider this as a service to the country,” Lyonchhen said. “If we allow the movement, it’ll increase the risk of spreading the virus, so we’re compelled to control the movement.”

Prime minister urged people to understand the present situation the country is going through. Each dzongkhag administration is expected to help people if possible.

In Wangdue 20 civil servants stranded due to the lockdown were sent to their dzongkhags with exception of Phuentsholing with permission from the National Covid-19 taskforce.

As per government’s directive, the Paro Dzongkhag taskforce members facilitated movement for stranded people. Movement for more than 100 stranded people was facilitated yesterday.