Covid 19 in Bhutan

Covid 19 in Bhutan today is 359 Covid case in Bhutan with no deaths. Out of this infected 338 have already been recovered. With this result, WHO (World Health Organization) hailed Bhutan’s performance in dealing with COVID-19 as ‘commendable’. A major role played in this success story is given to the leadership triumvirate of the Prime Minister, Health Minister and King. Prime Minister Lotay Tshering is a physician and Health Minister Dechen Wangmo has a long history in public health. With these backgrounds, they base their policies for effective disease control which is supported by the King. The first Covid 19 cases in Bhutan, a US tourist, was reported on 6th March. Then after the government instantly reacted and restricted entry for foreign visitors. On 10th August a woman released from quarantine tested positive and Bhutan went under national lockdown and contact tracing.

A maximum effort was exercised to prevent community transmission with a high rate of testing. People were encouraged to come forward for testing or present themselves for quarantine since test and quarantine facilities are free. Returning Bhutanese citizens were provided charter flights and rapid quarantine facilities including loans and relief measures. The government had clear, concise and authoritative communication with daily updates, contact numbers and other specific information for citizens, government agencies and would-be travelers. Another winning feature for Bhutan’s COVID-19 response is preparedness with the foundation being the country’s universal health care system. The system facilitated timely diagnosis and treatment.

The final element in Bhutan’s effective COVID-19 response is community strength with the King, government and community acting in concert. The King played his traditional role as monarch by distributing kidu (wellbeing), a system involving the royal provision of resources to the needy. During corona cases in Bhutan now ‘kidu’ came in the form of income support to 23,000 individuals. Members of parliament donated one month’s salary, hoteliers offered premises for quarantine, businesses donated cash and farmers donated food. Looking over all these factors, if certain relaxation on Covid-19 happens in March next year, TCB (Tourism Council of Bhutan) is projecting a maximum arrival of 50,000 tourists. Comparing arrival in 2019, the number is down by 84 percent. With this, the tourism sector in Bhutan is hopeful when the country reopens for international tourists.

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