10 COVID-19 initiatives in Bhutan during nationwide lockdown
Many initiatives have been taking place in this tiny Himalayan nation to ensure the well-being of the Bhutanese during the nationwide lockdown.
It’s day 11 since the nationwide lockdown in Bhutan.
As citizens continue to stay at home, and COVID-19 situation continues to evolve in this tiny Himalayan nation, various measures have been put in place to ensure the well-being of the Bhutanese. Below are some of the efforts that the country has undertaken.
1. Daily updates on COVID-19 situation during lockdown
The Prime Minister’s Office has been providing regular updates on the progress of the COVID-19 situation in the country alongside any initiatives that will be implemented within the country. The ongoing surveillance and preventive measures were communicated promptly to the people via different channels such as social media, official government website, BBS radio and television broadcasts. The different ministries have also been providing timely updates on the COVID-19 testings, and ongoing efforts that's happening in the country.
2. Food deliveries services
There are eight stock centres in the country to supply essential food items. Although there were some logistical and coordination challenges in the beginning due to the sheer volume of the demand. Different shops and retailers were identified in the different districts to provide the essential commodities to the people. Desuups, police, foresters, customs and immigration officials, Bhutan Red Cross Society volunteers, amongst others have been monitoring and helping to deliver the food items. People can purchase mixed vegetables packed in either Nu. 300 or Nu. 500 that arrive in DCM trucks based on the different zones.
Desuups assisting with food deliveries
3. Implementation of movement card in Thimphu
In the capital city, Thimphu, people are only allowed to go out to buy essential items in the shops with a movement card that was distributed to each household. For those who went to buy vegetables from the truck, officials will punch on the movement card to indicate that the person has made use of the vegetable delivery truck services. This is to ensure that no one person is overusing the services and avoid any potential hoarding of items.
4. Free additional mobile data
To allow Bhutanese to stay connected with their loved ones, the two telecom companies in the country have offered more than one giga-byte free data to all their subscribers. Bhutan Telecom provided free data of 1,110MB to its subscribers while TashiCell, a private telco in Bhutan offered Nu 50 talk time and 1,024MB to its subscribers.
5. Health services assistance
Bhutan Red Cross Society is involved in assisting patients who require health services. Volunteers assist to provide free transportation to patients visiting hospitals and those who are discharged. This will ensure that elderly and those with underlying conditions who require medical attention will be able to receive timely aid and medical supplies.
The residents of Thimphu can now access details of shops, vegetable sale points, and ATMs using the Interactive Zone Maps for Shops and Vegetable Sale-Points.
7. Distribution of tobacco products
Bhutan, a country that bans the sales of tobacco temporarily lifted the ban during the pandemic season. This is to ensure that no smuggling of tobacco products are happening that might further threaten the transmission of COVID-19. The tobacco products can be ordered and delivered to the door on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in Thimphu. Each person can only order two boxes of cigarettes. The tobacco products will be distributed to the different districts in phases.
8. Collection and redistribution of commercial crops
The agriculture ministry has developed plans to collect and redistribute crops such as apples, cardamom and mandarin oranges if lockdown continues. Through government support from district agriculture officers, private exporters would be mobilised at collection points to collect the produce from farmers who can then initiate online exports. The government would also consider purchasing the produce and redistribute for internal consumption. Bhutan Agro Industries Ltd. is the only local company that purchases apples from the local market for commercial purposes.
9. Nationwide feeding of stray dogs programme
Not only does the country concern itself with the well-being of the citizens but the stray dogs in Bhutan are equally well taken care of. The Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) initiated a nationwide feeding of stray dogs programme in the different districts to ensure that the dogs are fed daily. The programme was kickstarted in view of His Majesty’s concern for the dogs during the lockdown. As the streets are empty during the lockdown, the dogs which usually rely on food left by passersby or scraps from hotels, may starve and become feral.
The quiet streets of Bhutan during COVID-19 lockdown
10. Mass testing of community
The government of Bhutan has conducted mass testing in Phuntsholing, a southern town bordering India, following local transmission of COVID-19 in the area. To further curb the transmission, Thimphu population testing will also be conducted after the testing for people with travel history to Phuntsholing is concluded.
View of Thimphu city
As of Aug 21, there are currently 150 COVID-19 cases in the country and 105 cases have recovered.