Unlocking process to begin soon

… draft of the National Covid-19 Taskforce decision leaked on social media

Yangchen C Rinzin

After days of meetings on how best to lift the lockdown, the National Covid-19 taskforce led by the Prime Minister is most likely to announce its decision today or latest by tomorrow.

As of yesterday evening, copies of the draft of its decision were circulating in many of the groups on social media.

According to Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering the taskforce would finalise the draft today.

The government has received much flak in the last few days for the lack of communication on the smart unlocking of lockdown.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that there was no confusion because the lockdown continues until the government issued an order to discontinue it.

“Until the government announces otherwise or specified, it will still be considered as a lockdown,” Lyonchhen said. “People expect the government to announce separately that it is still under lockdown, but until any further order, people must consider this as a lockdown.”

Lyonchhen said that with more cases every day, the National Covid-19 Taskforce was carefully studying the situation to ensure transmission does not spread across countries.

“We’ve to weigh pros and cons before coming up with the decision and the team is meeting time and again. We want to be absolutely sure that there’ll be no rampant outbreak,” Lyonchhen said.

The government is still yet to finalise the unlocking process.   

The second lockdown was first announced for Thimphu thromde on December 20 after the first local Covid-19 outbreak. Following the detection of more cases, the government enforced a nationwide seven-day lockdown on December 23.

The lockdown was to discourage people from gathering to avoid spreading of the virus and break the chain of transmission.

The nationwide lockdown, as announced by the Prime Minister Office (PMO) on December 29 was extended until the “festivities of new year and Nyilo,” and after which smart unlocking process was to be initiated.

However, many criticised the government on not providing clarity or concrete decision on the unlocking process. Some claimed that the notification from PMO did not mention how long will the lockdown be and when the final decision would be made.

Many were in favour of extending the lockdown given the rampant positive Covid-19 cases reported every day in Thimphu and Paro. Others say the government should implement the unlocking process in other dzongkhags where there are no community cases reported.

Many residents said that if it was going to be extended, the government should have told people it would extend indefinitely or until further notice to avoid confusion.

A Thimphu resident said that the lockdown technically completed on January 2 unless the government had announced the lockdown would continue.

“It’s good that people did not come onto the streets thinking lockdown was over. If the government has given clear instruction on the extension, people wouldn’t protest.”

The National Covid-19 Taskforce along with zoning team and technical advisory group are still in the process of reviewing modalities to ease the nationwide lockdown.

Since the first outbreak on December 20, the country has seen 260 cases so far, including local transmission cases.

After four days of zero positive cases from the communities, five cases emerged from the communities of Thimphu again in the last two days. It includes a resident who had tested positive at the flu clinic yesterday and was bound for travel outside Thimphu.

Lyonchhen said that lockdown and unlocking cannot be pre-announced and that it would depend on the situation. “Positive cases are still coming with outbreaks in different areas.”

The unlocking process would be carried out region, dzongkhag, zone and also activity-wise, based on epidemiological indicators that the team will gather.

On the unlocking of the region where there are no cases reported, Lyonchhen said there should be qualifying criteria to be sure there is no case.

He said that in such a situation, the taskforce needed 14 days, which is the incubation period, to conduct a thorough study. “We still have a few more days to complete this period in the regions. What if we’ve undetected cases? We can’t take the risk.”

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