Yangchen C Rinzin 

The National Covid-19 taskforce earlier announced that stranded people can travel without having to quarantine from Thimphu and asked people to test during the on-going mass testing.

The five-day second round of mass testing began in Thimphu on January 25. Its results will determine if Thimphu can become a green zone.  Stranded people would be allowed to travel to their respective dzongkhags once the mega zone they reside in is cleared through mass screening.

However, many people thought that once Thimphu is declared green zone the seven-day quarantine would cease. They accused the government of double standards and questioned why Southern dzongkhags should have mandatory quarantine when they have no Covid-19 cases.

An official from the Prime Minister Office clarified that the notification was solely meant for stranded travellers and to facilitate their travel.

The official said that stranded people were asked to test so that they could travel as soon as the mega zones are declared green zones. The official added that if the person is quarantined now, they would complete their quarantine at the same time when Thimphu becomes green zone.

“So, if they are tested and the result is negative they can leave, as travel would be anyway allowed in the green zone. This is just to ensure that stranded people don’t travel at one go when Thimphu is declared green zone.”

However, the official clarified that national Covid-19 taskforce has not decided anything on the relaxation of mandatory quarantine to travel out of Thimphu. “This will depend on the results of mass testing and we’ll announce accordingly if mandatory quarantine would be required or not.”

The taskforce would decide if additional measures are needed otherwise. 

The official added that as for Southern borders, the pandemic is not over and mandatory quarantine is still kept since the area is still considered as a high risk given the porous border.

The public call centre 1010 has recorded about 3,923 stranded cases in Thimphu affecting 8,362 people between December 23 and January 14. Of the total, 77 stranded cases involving 148 people are from other dzongkhags.

The mandatory quarantine was implemented from January 9 and for emergency travellers in death and medical cases, a three-day facility quarantine was introduced. For other travellers, seven-day facility quarantine was made mandatory.

The mass testing is expected to end by January 29.