January 16, 2021

With no positive case detected during the three-day mass screening programme, the national Covid-19 taskforce (NC19TF) decided to lift the lockdown restrictions starting today in dzongkhags other than Thimphu and Paro.

This means that 25 days after the second nationwide lockdown was enforced, life in the 18 dzongkhags would return to normal (within the Covid-19 norms) as it was before the lockdown.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office, the confidence to unlock the 18 dzongkhags comes from the epidemiological evidence so far. Almost 18,000 tests were conducted in these dzongkhags to rule out the presence of the infection.

The first phase of the unlocking in these dzongkhags was implemented on January 6, which allowed movement within the dzongkhags. At least 300 tests were conducted then. However, to further unlock the dzongkhags the random sampling size was doubled this time.

This according to the press release was in addition to other screenings carried out in the dzongkhags, that add up to more than 52,000 tests since the nationwide lockdown on December 23. Since then, over 135,000 Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the country altogether.

For areas that were indicated as yellow zones, intensive contact tracings, isolation of the cases from the community, and additional sweeps testing were carried out.

“With all results showing negative, it serves as epidemiological evidence to conclude that the 18 districts are free of Covid-19,” stated the press release.  “However, alongside the easing of more restrictions, the health ministry has been instructed to heighten the surveillance throughout the country to pick slightest of early outbreaks.”

Details on the relaxation have been shared with the regional taskforces and district authorities with reminders for implementation within Covid-19 norms, stated the press release. “The respective taskforces will decide and announce the implementation dates.”

Schools, colleges and institutes will reopen with strict monitoring of the health of students and staff. Inter-dzongkhag movements will also be allowed. Travellers, however, must register with the check post management system (CPMS) prior to the travel.

Except for those entities which pose high risks, the shops, offices and private businesses in those districts can also open. Construction works can also resume.  

Thimphu and Paro

Mass screening in Thimphu and Paro was introduced to check for the presence of the infection in the communities.

Over 12,000 samples were collected in Paro as of yesterday. No one tested positive from the samples collected. In Thimphu, over 10,000 samples were collected in the last two day. The Thimphu screening involves testing of one individual from each household.

“Since the outbreak is contained, and the number of cases manageable, the outcome of the screening will furnish the evidence to pursue smart unlocking in Thimphu and Paro,” stated the press release.

Based on the findings, the NC19TF has decided to lift the current lockdown restrictions in Kawang, Chang, Mewang, Genekha, Dagala, Soe, Naro, and Lingzhi gewogs in Thimphu.

However, in Paro the NC19TF has decided to lift the lockdown restriction in Chungjey-Zamsar, Soe-Yaksa and Mitshig-Shana chiwogs in Tsento gewog. All restrictions would be lifted in all chiwogs except Mendrel-Esuna in Dagor gewog. Restrictions shall be lifted in all chiwogs of Naja gewog.

The NC19TF advised dzongkhag/thromde taskforce of Thimphu and Paro to ensure risk mitigation measures like establishing police checkpoints so there won’t be mixing of people from red/yellow/green zones, and should provide escort services for people transiting through the red/yellow zones.

Source: Kuensel