SILIGURI, SEPTEMBER 8: Bhutan’s Health Ministry has notified that a visitor to the country needs to carry a COVID-19 negative certificate, spelling relief for migrant workers and traders of India near the border.
The move is a part of the country’s unlocking in phases. In March, when the first COVID case was reported there, Bhutan barred the entry of foreigners.
On Saturday, the Bhutan Health Ministry notified that a visitor, besides carrying the certificate, must obey quarantine and test protocols.
A person who wants to enter Bhutan should get his RT-PCR COVID-19 test done and get a negative result. The test has to be done not earlier than 72 hours from the day he starts his trip to Bhutan. Migrant workers can carry the rapid antigen test report that confirms their COVID negative status. Safety protocols of the Bhutan Government are a must for visitors and migrant workers, alike.
A nationwide lockdown was announced in Bhutan from August 11 that continued till August 31. From September 1, the Bhutan Government started unlocking in phases.
The decision spells good news for several migrant workers who had returned to India and were living amid uncertainty, said Soumen Nag, a social researcher in Siliguri. “It seems that they can gradually get back to their jobs. It is a positive development as unemployment is a major issue during the pandemic and consequent lockdown,” Nag said.
Traders in the bordering town of Bengal’s Jaigaon, on the other side of Bhutan’s Phuentsholing, hailed the news.
“Hundreds of us visit Bhutan regularly for trade and for banking purposes. It is good that the country is finally opening up to visitors,” said RS Gupta, a trader in Jaigaon.
Those in the tourism sector, however, said they need to wait for some more time.
“We have seen the notification but it seems it is for people who need to visit Bhutan for professional and commercial purposes, and for migrant workers of India. There is no specific notification for tourists so far. We believe we have to wait for some more days before tourists are allowed in Bhutan,” said a tour operator in Alipurduar. (Courtesy: TT)