Bhutan authorities will ease restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from Tuesday, September 1. Strict measures will reportedly remain in place for the high-risk areas of Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, and Samtse districts. In such areas, residents must stay at home and obtain movement passes for essential outdoor activity, and only essential businesses will remain operational. Other areas will go through a three-phase reopening. Phase One was active as of 05:00 (local time) on September 1, and officials have lifted movement controls; however, esidents can only walk or cycle. Essential and permitted businesses may operate until 21:00 daily. Dine-in services at restaurants remain suspended. Phase Two will be active as of 05:00 on Friday, September 4 and intra-district travel will be allowed via public transport and private hire vehicles that may operate with a 50 percent passenger capacity. Phase Three will commence at 05:00 on Monday, September 7, and will allow offices to function at full capacity. All vehicles may carry out intra-district travel with 50 percent occupancy; inter-district travel may resume with prior permission from 05:00 on September 11.
Other nationwide measures will continue until further notice. Wearing face masks in public is compulsory. Contact sports, social gatherings, as well as inter-district movement of people and goods remain prohibited unless the government grants permission. Schools, nonessential government facilities, and commercial establishments are closed.
As of September 1, there have been 225 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, and no associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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