The government has announced that from 25 April 2022 onwards international travelers who are fully vaccinated and have a negative RT-PCR report need only quarantine for 5 days while. Unvaccinated people have to quarantine for 10 days.
However, the Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) Dr Tandi Dorji said that they will see what the situation is in another two months or so.
He said if many Bhutanese have got infected, have hybrid immunity and there is not much transmission, then the government can consider doing away with the quarantine period for tourists entirely and probably only have a test report or test.
Lyonpo said that it is too late for the current tourist season so the aim is to catch the autumn tourism season. This season starts usually during September and goes onto November.
The minister said that similar relaxations could also be made for construction workers.
The government will have a full four months before September to evaluate the situation. However, several things will have to come together.
The first is that a majority of Bhutanese should have developed a hybrid immunity of vaccines and the infection and the case transmission should be low along with deaths. There should not be overflow of cases in hospitals.
Though unlikely, a deadlier variant will discourage opening up.
The heath infrastructure will also have to do an assessment of it can handle the rush of tourists and labourers and them potentially needing medical care. An assessment will also have to be done to see how the vulnerable in Bhutan are doing.
The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) member Dr Tshokey said that depending on the situation, the quarantine requirement can be lifted. He said it can go both ways in terms of getting better or worse.
The Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering already said in his press conference that the relaxations and the timeline given in the recent press release are flexible and will be subject to review whenever the situation changes or improves. He indicated that more relaxations could happen earlier if things improved.
This development will come as welcome news for a tourism sector badly hit since March 2020 with tour operators, guides, hotels, restaurants, handicrafts and others affected.
The Tourism industry is not happy with the 5-day quarantine (see page 4 story)
If such relaxations can be given later in the year then it will also greatly benefit the construction industry and the hydropower sector that are in dire need of foreign workers.
Apart from the above, the Prime Minister also said that a slew of government projects is in the pipeline to boost the economic revival. There will be greater access to credit as well.
Tourism is important in terms of both foreign exchange and also the large numbers of people and allied industries dependent on it.
A senior source said that the government has just around 16 months left to revive the economy before the end of its term and so a major push will be given with many types of projects.
It has been learnt that the Prime Minister will be leading the focus on the economy in the coming months and the main aim will be to revive the economy.