Severity: Critical Alert
Exit/Entry: International flights to and from Bhutan remain suspended as of July 28 due to COVID-19. Domestic measures are ongoing.
- Alert Begins: 28 Jul 2020 08:04 AM UTC
- Alert Expires: 31 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
- Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
- Location(s): Nationwide (map)
- Time Frame: Indefinite
- Impact: Travel and business disruptions
Bhutanese authorities are continuing to ban entry and re-entry for foreigners through air or land borders, as of July 28, as part of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) control measures. 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. However, 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 by Bhutan officials. Limited flights resumed between Thailand and Bhutan July 14, though flight schedules are subject to modification at short notice. Bhutanese air carriers - such as Druk Air (KB) and Bhutan Airlines (B3) - are operating limited flights, mainly for repatriation of 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. 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. Strict measures such as movement restrictions, closure of nonessential businesses, and suspension of transport services are possible in affected areas if in-country cases rise.
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.