Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Bhutan relaxes some domestic COVID-19 controls from Sept. 11. Quarantine measures, international travel restrictions continue.

Alert Begins 11 Sep 2020 10:16 AM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions, movement controls, entry restrictions

Summary
Effective Sept. 11, Bhutanese authorities are relaxing nationwide measures imposed in response to an increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Businesses may function through 2100 daily; ongoing business closures in major markets of the capital city of Thimphu may be expanded or replicated in other urban centers. Interdistrict transport is allowed with prior permission. All vehicles may operate, albeit with a maximum of 50-percent passenger load. Sports venues are open; school classes will begin for higher grades from Sept. 14.

Strict controls will continue in high-risk areas of Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, and Samtse districts, as well as localities near international borders. In such zones, residents must stay home and obtain movement passes for essential outdoor activity; only essential businesses will function. Entry and exit controls are in place. The following nationwide rules will apply for domestic travelers:

 

  • Between low-risk zones: Online registration is compulsory; such registration may also be done at transport hubs like bus stations or checkposts.

 

  • From low-risk to high-risk zones: Travel is prohibited unless authorities in destination sites give permission for entry.

 

  • Between high-risk zones: No quarantine is necessary for asymptomatic passengers.

 

  • From high-risk to low-risk zones: Travelers must undergo a mandatory 7-day quarantine at the point of origin, followed by a COVID-19 test. Passengers on emergency trips may skip quarantine, and travel immediately after testing; they will be subject to monitoring.

 


Other nationwide measures will continue until further notice. Wearing facemasks in public is compulsory. Contact sports, social gatherings, and interdistrict movement of people and goods remain prohibited unless the government grants permission. Authorities are advising residents to stay home and to use delivery services to the extent possible.

Travel Restrictions
Bhutanese authorities continue to ban entry for foreigners through air and land borders. The rules affect foreigners with any form of visa, work permit, or immigration permit, as well as those carrying diplomatic, official, and international organization passports. Authorities are allowing foreign nationals to exit Bhutan. International flights to and from Bhutan remain severely limited due to travel restrictions on Bhutanese citizens and carriers, as well as border closures. Limited flights resumed between Thailand and Bhutan July 14, though flight schedules are subject to change at short notice. Bhutanese air carriers such as Druk Air (KB) and Bhutan Airlines (B3) are operating limited flights, mainly for repatriating Bhutanese citizens. All returnees are required to undergo a 21-day quarantine after repatriation. Authorities are advising citizens against nonessential travel. Bhutanese nationals are required to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thimphu before traveling abroad.

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the government correspond with similar actions taken by other regional governments 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
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.


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