Severity: Critical Alert
Exit/Entry: International flights to and from Bhutan remain suspended as of July 15 due to COVID-19. Domestic measures are ongoing.
- Alert Begins: 15 Jul 2020 03:38 PM UTC
- Alert Expires: 29 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
- Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
- Location(s): Nationwide (map)
- Time Frame: Indefinite
- Impact: Travel and business disruptions
Authorities are continuing to ban international flights to and from Bhutan as of July 15 as part of the government's response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Limited flights between Bhutan and Thailand resumed July 14; Bhutanese nationals are required to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu before traveling to Thailand. Officials continue to keep international borders closed to foreign travelers, including the shared border with India. The government is prohibiting public gatherings and has closed tourist sites, public venues, and entertainment sites. Authorities allowed some schools to reopen from July 1.
Officials are maintaining entry and re-entry restrictions for foreigners with any form of visa, work permit, or immigration permit. The entry ban also extends to foreigners carrying diplomatic, official, and international organization passports; however, authorities are allowing foreigners to exit Bhutan. Officials are only allowing Bhutanese citizens and residents to enter the country. Bhutanese air carriers, such as Druk Air (KB) and Bhutan Airlines (B3), have operated some charter flights to repatriate Bhutanese citizens. All returnees are required to undergo a 21-day quarantine after repatriation.
Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm business appointments, deliveries, work, and travel arrangements. Do not check out of accommodation without confirming onward travel. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Ensure access to essential items. Carry proper identification documents, heed all security advisories.
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.