Travel restrictions likely to ease by October

Bhutan will receive the first tourist this coming week after one and half year of closure

Lhakpa Tshering

While official discussions on relaxation measures have not yet been considered by the government, highly reliable sources say that pandemic travel restrictions in the country are likely to end by early October this year.

People can expect the announcement after children aged between 11 to 17 years are being fully vaccinated with two shots against coronavirus.

“The government is thinking to look at the potential of relaxing some measures including travel restrictions from early October,” the government official said.

The move would allow the tourism and hospitality businesses to reopen with density restrictions while people and other businesses can also expect to return to a new normal.

Officials expect the new policy by the government, paving the way for the reopening of international tourism with reviewed measures on quarantine for both domestic (high to low-risk areas) and international. “It can be shortened quarantine periods or travel without having to quarantine on arrival.”

However, health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said that the relaxation will not come into effect immediately after the vaccination of children with full doses. “The moment we are vaccinated, we are free to do whatever is not possible,” she said.

Lyonpo further stressed that the restrictions will be phased out slowly in a cautious approach. “I know people are very anxious about relaxation. My only advice is that the relaxation will come in a staggered manner,” she said.

Lyonpo said the public should be mindful that even if the vaccination rate climbed above 90 percent in the country, it doesn’t mean complete protection from the virus.

The health minister added that people should continue to practice the basic preventive measures and exemplary solidarity till the end. “I have been thanking the public for their commitment and solidarity which is highly appreciated,” she said. 

“Today, in a short period of time, we managed to achieve this purely because people came forward and they looked at vaccination not just as vaccination but as a national duty of which we remain very grateful,” she added.

With the delta variant currently the predominant variant circulating globally in 132 countries, it is time to take extreme caution and reconsider all our plans before the floodgates are open.

Meanwhile, Bhutan will receive the first tourist today after one and half year of closure. The tourists will have to undergo a mandatory quarantine for 21 days and also pay for quarantine and all tests as per the Covid-19 requirement.

And it would require tourists wanting to visit Bhutan to produce a Covid-19 negative certificate issued by a certified laboratory and records of receiving both shots of vaccines.