Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Bhutan maintains ban on inbound international travel as of April 15. Additional domestic controls continue.

This alert affects Bhutan

This alert began 15 Apr 2020 15:15 GMT and is scheduled to expire 07 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel bans, business and transport disruptions, quarantine measures; possible clashes

Summary
The Bhutanese government is maintaining its closure of all international borders, including with India, to foreign travelers as of April 15 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Officials are banning all passenger transit and restricting cargo transport, with heightened vigilance along informal routes. Additional nationwide measures, such as the prohibition of public gatherings, as well as the closure of educational institutions, tourist sites, public venues, and entertainment sites, continue. Any essential businesses allowed to operate must close by 1900 every evening.

Ongoing restrictions on entry and re-entry for all foreigners with any form of visa, work permits, and immigration permits will continue until further notice. Those holding diplomatic, official, and international organization passports are also denied entry; only Bhutanese citizens and residents are allowed to enter. All returnees are required to undergo a 21-day quarantine after repatriation. Foreigners are allowed to exit the country. Bhutanese air carriers such as Druk Air (KB) and Bhutan Airlines (B3) have operated some charter flights to repatriate stranded Bhutanese citizens.

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.

Advice
Follow all official instructions; minimize outdoor activity to the extent possible. 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.

Resources
Ministry of Health: www.moh.gov.bt

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.mfa.gov.bt