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Haa dzongkhag investigates death of 49-year-old patient

Sat, 01/09/2021 - 01:24

MB Subba

Haa Dzongkhag is investigating the death of a 49-year-old man who was referred to the national referral hospital from the Haa district hospital recently.

The patient from Wangtsa village, Haa had come to the hospital on December 24 after falling off the roof of a two-storey house.

The hospital discharged the patient on the same day as initial medical examinations did not find external injuries, according to officials.

However, the patient came back to the hospital on December 26 afternoon with complaints of abdominal pain, lower backache, constipation, mild and shortness of breath, according to a report shared by the Haa District Health Officer (DHO). He was admitted.

One of the victim’s sisters said that her brother might have survived had the medical officials recognised the seriousness of the case on time.

She said that the victim had climbed on the roof to keep the puja offerings (torma) on the roof. She said the patient was referred to the national referral hospital on the third day of his admission in the Haa hospital when his condition further deteriorated.

The patient died on the way to JDWNRH.

Haa’s DHO, Samten, said that the case was being investigated. According to him, the doctor on initial examination had found that the patient’s abdomen was “soft” and that there were no external injuries in the abdomen and chest.

According to the doctor’s response shared by the DHO, the medical examination found a mild abrasion over right knee and the result of the chest X-ray was found to be normal. The patient was “managed symptomatically” and discharged with advice to review if he didn’t improve.

After he was admitted in the hospital, routine blood work-up was done with ultrasound of the whole abdomen. The hospital also carried out chest X-ray, which was “apparently normal” and was kept under observation, according to the response.

It was later found that the patient had a wound with pus above genitalia, the doctor said. The patient, according to the doctor, was stabilised and immediately referred to JDWNRH after consultation.

The doctor described the cause of death as “septic shock secondary to peritonitis as a result of abdominal trauma”.

The victim’s sister a few days ago took to social media to share the story.

Show of solidarity in pandemic times

Sat, 01/09/2021 - 01:23

Thinley Namgay  

DeSuup Chimi Wangmo and friends – 27 in all – are currently working at the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) Limited in Thimphu.

Yesterday, they unloaded essential items from seven Jumbo trucks. “The essential items come from Phuentsholing. In a week, we have to unload about 800 metric tonnes of essential items at the swimming pool complex,” said Chimi Wangmo.

The work is tiring but the show of solidarity among people keeps them going.

“People come with refreshments when they see us working,” said Chimi Wangmo.

DeSuup Namgay Yonten is patrolling at the Changjalu, Thimphu. He said that, recently, one of DeSuup friends donated 200 thermos flasks.

UTL Collection in Olakha donated 2,000 facemasks for the frontline workers. Likewise, Tashi Beverages Limited has donated 250 crates of coca-cola, fanta, sprite, and mineral water to DeSuung Office.

Thinley Dorji, Founder of Care Bhutan, sponsored 100 cartons of mineral water on December 30 for DeSuups in Thimphu Thromde.

Around 2,000 DeSuup s have been deployed in Thimphu for the Covid-19 duty.



The business community in Phuentsholing in collaboration with the regional trade and BCCI office, sent 171 heaters for DeSuup s on January 6. The first batch of 279 heaters was sent on December 26 for the DeSuups of Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Gasa, Trongsa, and Bumthang.



On January 1, the frontline workers received fish, eggs and vegetables from the Pawan Hardware and Indra Thapa Tshongkhang in Damphu, Farmers of Phutenchu Gewog, and Pema Dorji Sherpa from Patshaling Gewog.

On December 29, San Man Subba of Sergithang contributed eggs, dairy products, and more than 700kg vegetables for the frontline workers.

Sherpa General Shop offered 50 cartons of mineral water, and CT Mart (Milan Lama) donated three pots, one boiler, 50kg of rice, bucket, jug, ladle and a mat for drivers at the transit site at Daratsho.

Gyembo, an engineer, and the livestock sector of Tsirang provided 14.5kg chicken to the front-line workers stationed in Damphu Middle Secondary School.

Mendrelgang Gup handed over vegetables to the 40 frontline workers at Damphu Middle Secondary School on December 27.

On December 26, Damphu Business Community donated two halogen heaters to Tsirang hospital. On the same day, the business community contributed essential commodities such as vegetables, rice, eggs juice, facemasks, and hand sanitisers to the frontline workers.



The farmers from Drujeygang in Dagana donated about 2.4 metric tonnes of vegetables to the government on January 1. On December 28, shopkeepers Lachi Maya Tamang and Kinley of Dagapela donated essential items to DeSuup s and security personnel.



Hotel Lhayul offered cakes to the dzongkhag frontline workers at emergency operation centre on December 27.

The price of personal affair going public

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:48

Tashi Dema 

Fresh out of college, Lhamo, like many university graduates, was looking for a job in Thimphu. One day she received a mobile text message asking her to pay the money she borrowed.

Lhamo had not borrowed any money and called the number. There was an elderly man on the other side of the line. She had met the man through a friend before. She clarified the confusion, but that didn’t end the story.

The young graduate and the man kept in touch after the text message incident. They met and she claims that the 74-year-old businessman, offered to adopt her as his daughter.  “I adopted him as my father. He was so supportive and a nice man.”

But behind the new relationship there were many incidents happening without the knowledge of Lhamo. The man had been leaking video clips of their personal moments together.

Not long ago, in the beginning of last year, Lhamo said that she sought the man’s help in looking for a flat in Thimphu. She calls that the businessman offered her to stay in an empty flat in his building without having to pay rent.

Lhamo  and her friend shifted in the flat and the man visited them but she always addressed him as a father. “He would give religious talks and also took us around for pilgrimage.”

In  one of the clips the businessman released, Lhamo was seen feeding the man.  Lhamo claims that he tricked her to film while feeding him, saying it will be a memory of how a daughter took care of her father. “I never doubted his intentions. My friend was there with me when he filmed all the three videos.”   

She claimed that  he also filmed videos with her friend who is now worried if he would leak it on social media. “People will not understand how the videos were made, but would jump to conclusions and become judgmental.”

Not even a month after shifting to his flat, her friends told her about a video clip that was circulating on social media. She confronted him but he told her people were making up stories about them.

Worried and desperate, Lhamo threatened to report to police. The response shocked her. She claimed that the man tried to intimidate her saying the police would not accept the case and that he had good relations with all the police officers. “He brought mobile vouchers and claimed he was “recharging”  for police officers.”

When the three videos went viral on social media, her parents took her away, vacated the apartment and they lodged a police complaint against him.

In May last year, police registered the case as harassment case against the man. He was detained for a few nights and released on bail.

Two months later and still on bail, the man released another video clip claiming police questioned him unnecessarily and the complainant withdrew the case. “People said there is nothing wrong with the video. I have to actually counter charge,” he claimed in the video.

He demeaned Lhamo and boasted of having a university graduate feed him even when he didn’t want to eat. Police called him for an explanation. He was sent home with a verbal warning.

It appears he asked a parking fee collector to shoot the video and he boasts of 8,000 people viewing the clips he shared and made him popular.

Meanwhile, Lhamo is waiting for the  police to forward the case to the court. “I am hoping they will call me after the lockdown is lifted.”


The recent clip

During the lockdown, Kezang (another woman) was at home, flipping through her phone when her father called her to his room.

He showed a video of her with the same businessman that has gone viral. Her father beat her up. The family then complained to police.

Police, through their Facebook page, stated a case has been registered against the man and they are investigating it.

They also said he was under their ‘radar’ for a while but could not arrest him, as he was residing in a red zone and his building was ‘red building” meaning there were Covid-19 positive cases among tenants  of the same building.

But the damage was done.

The video with explicit scenes went viral prompting people to share it and  blaming the women for being gold diggers. Many commented  and  made fun of them, saying he was their ‘sugar daddy’.

Kezang was shattered. “I am worried of my family members and my children,” she said.

Police put her under counselling.

She said she met the man in 2017 when she was working in a private construction company, which he visited frequently.

“He asked for my salary and promised me a managerial post in his hotel, which is under construction in Gelephu,” she said. “I later found out that there was no hotel under construction and we never met.”

The class 12 graduate said she remembered him saying he was video chatting with his former wife but never realised he was filming her then. “I didn’t know he had this video for the last four years.”

Lhamo had to live through another nightmare too.

Netizens on social media uploaded the former videos and called her names. Some even got confused between the videos.

In the last trimester of her pregnancy, she said she is staying strong for her child. “My family members and in-laws are going through hell because of me,” she said. “There was nothing between me and the man. My only fault is I trusted him.”

She said while he must be enjoying the drama, the videos ruined her life.

The businessman, meanwhile, issued another video clip recently, claiming police and the complainant of the latest video should prove who leaked the video. “I am also in the video and it is evident I will not share the video.”

He said he has children and niece and nephews, whose image is impacted because of the video. “My children will lodge a complaint to the police and court also. They defamed me.”

He claimed he also lodged a complaint and police should register his case. “I appreciate police for investigating the case properly and not taking me to court.”

It was learnt the man had many such videos in his phone.

Just as this story is being written, another video is being circulated of the man with another woman.

All names of women are changed to protect their identity

Police appeal not to share obscene media content

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:47

Yangyel Lhaden

The videos of an elderly man with young women are making rounds on social media.

The police appeal to public not to share such videos and information which could lead to further spread of the content and hamper the case and the victims.

A few days ago, the Police posted an appeal to the public on the undesirable and inapt videos relating exploitation of females by unscrupulous men being posted on social media.

“The RBP would like to inform all that  case against the particular man has been registered and is being investigated. Therefore, the RBP would like to request everyone not to post or circulate the video clips, which would create more damage to the victim and case,” it stated.

Officer in Command of Thimphu Police Station Major Gembo Penjor said that they were investigating the case. “He would be arrested after the lockdown or when the building he lives in is declared not a Covid-19 hot spot.”

The case of the elderly man was registered last week. The police could not arrest the suspect as he lives in a building in Changzamtog where a positive Covid-19 was detected.

Major Gembo Penjor said that before the arrest and end of the investigation it was not advisable for people to comment about the case. “A clear motive and end result would be known after we arrest the man.”

He said that as a responsible citizen people should refrain from such acts. “Whoever makes or shares obscene media content will be penalised.”

As per the Penal Code of Bhutan those share such content would be prosecuted for lewd and lascivious conduct which is an offence punishable under the provisions of the Code.

New travel protocols for those stranded 

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:47

Staff Reporter 

In the wake of rapid increase in Covid-19 positive cases, the National Covid-19 Taskforce (NC19TF) has revised the protocol for stranded individuals who seek to travel to their place of residence.

The heightened surveillance is intended to prevent disease spread beyond Thimphu and Paro, while controlling the local outbreaks in the two districts, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The NC19TF has decided to implement protocols for travel out these dzongkhags with immediate effect.

Emergency travels

For emergency travels from Thimphu and Paro to other dzongkhags related to death and illnesses, the travellers will have to undergo three days of mandatory facility quarantine at the place of origin.

Individuals should register with 1010 public call centre, which will verify and authenticate the case, and direct the person to a quarantine facility. The person will be allowed to move only if the RT-PCR result at the end of the quarantine comes out negative.

The details of the travellers will be shared to the local government authorities. The person will have to undergo an antigen test on the seventh day from the day of RT-PCR test. At the place of arrival, the person must ensure safe distance and follow Covid-19 norms, according to the new protocol.

The same will apply for emergency travellers from high-risk areas to other dzongkhags, according to the National Covid-19 Taskforce.

Other travels

Other stranded individuals who need to return to the place of residence will have to undergo a seven-day mandatory facility quarantine at the place of origin.

The person will have to register with 1010 public call centre. Following validation of the details, the person will be directed to a quarantine facility. On the eighth day, an RT-PCR test will be conducted and the individual will be allowed to travel, if the result is negative.

The same protocol is reinstated in high-risk areas.

Those travelling to red zones and high risk areas from other regions need to clear an antigen test for permission to travel. 

The same applies for travel between Thimphu and Paro.

Reopening of schools could differ from dzongkhag to dzongkhag 

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:46

Covid-19 positive students in stable condition as of now 

Yangchen C Rinzin

Reopening of schools would be known by next week although the rest of the dzongkhags apart from Thimphu and Part are in the green zone.

Schools all over the country are still considered closed until further directives, according to the education secretary, Karma Tshering. With some dzongkhags relaxing the nationwide lockdown, parents had been questioning if schools would resume normal classes.

The education ministry, the secretary said, is working on a strategy to continue education for Classes IX-XII and is exploring whether to continue through online or normal classes.

Karma Tshering said that after completion of seven days extended lockdown, the government would announce whether to reopen school or not as a part of smart unlocking.

However, reopening of schools might differ from dzongkhag to dzongkhag, as the situation is different this time, according to the secretary.

“Our strategy to continue school will also differ from red zone to green zone to yellow zone and how the situation would unfold in the coming days,” Karma Tshering said. “But ultimately, it will depend on the directives of the government, which is expected to be announced soon.”

As Thimphu and Paro are seeing an increasing number of positive cases, the secretary said teaching might have to be continued through online classes for another month or so.

The ministry is also working on how to go about with examinations in different schools including schools where students have tested positive for Covid-19 and schools that fall under the yellow zone.

Although many schools completed trial examinations for Classes X and XII, some schools were in the middle of the trial exam when the lockdown was declared. A few schools have not even begun the trial exam.

Examination for Classes IX and XI is scheduled in mid-February. The academic session for Classes X and XII will end in March after the board exams.

Should teaching continue through online platforms, Karma Tshering said that the ministry is working on a plan to provide free internet data for all students.

Students in boarding schools are in the self-containment zone,  but there are no classes conducted as of now. Teachers stationed in the schools are providing counselling sessions and engaging students in various activities.

Meanwhile, Karma Tshering said that the 72 students who tested positive and are in isolation at the Terma Linca Resort in Thimphu are in good condition.

He said that while no online classes are conducted for the students in isolation, the ministry is providing counselling services.

Of the 72 students who tested positive as of January 3, 30 are from Thimphu, 29 from Paro, two from Bumthang, one each from Haa, Trashiyangtse, Sarpang, Wangdue, and three from Punakha.

Four positive students are students studying abroad but are currently in Bhutan.

A counsellor said that students are sent messages in a group chat on a daily basis asking them to share if they are going through any stress or personal issues.

“It was difficult for them in the beginning and some students were stressed out,” a counsellor said. “However, students have been sharing that they are able to cope up because almost all positive students are from the same class and are friends.”

The counsellor said that they console each other and students shared that it would have been difficult if they had come from different classes. “Even those students who are quarantined are also in touch with counsellors including parents.”

Officials from the National Mental Health are also in touch with students to provide counselling services.

Household waste doubles in Thimphu during lockdown

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:45

Choki Wangmo

Waste generation in Thimphu almost doubled during the second nationwide lockdown compared with normal times, according to waste management service providers.

Three waste service providers in Thimphu – Greener Way, Clean City, and Green Bhutan Corporation Limited – are allocated in different zones to collect waste.

Increase in waste generation is attributed to lack of recycling and segregation activities and movement restriction due to the lockdown.

Founder of Clean City, Jyoti Gurung, said that in normal times people could dump waste at drop-off centres.

“Our collectors have to collect three or four times a week in the area where we collected only twice in the past,” she said, adding that the workers had to stay late into the night working until the daily collection schedule is completed.

She said that in the past, waste collectors segregated waste from the source but due to Covid-19 risks, they were not allowed to touch the waste collected but is directly dumped at the Memelakha landfill.

An official of Thimphu Thromde’s waste management division, Ugyen Tshewang, said that the frequency of waste unloading had increased by almost four to five times a day at the landfill. “It was challenging in the first week.”

Clean City has deployed three dumper trucks and eight staff in the field. The workers are staying at the shelter provided by thromde.

There are about 10 dumper trucks making a maximum of four trips a day within Thimphu. A compactor truck can carry about 3,000kg waste. More than 20 people are involved in handling waste.

Ugyen Tshewang said that most of the waste collected were cardboard and PET bottles.

He said that the increase in such waste was due to movement restriction.

He also said that without scrap dealers, everything has to be collected by the service providers, including recyclable items.

Jyoti Gurung said people crowd near dumper trucks in places without monitoring by frontline workers, increasing risk for workers. “It is hard to monitor and maintain Covid-19 protocol such as social distancing.”

She also said that waste handlers were bullied and harassed by people. “There were incidences of mistreatment in the past. The collectors are working until late hours and they are already under stress due to increased frequency of waste collection. The least we can do is show sympathy.”

North Thimphu residents, however, say the waste collectors come only once a week, making it difficult for them to store waste. “In Kawajangsa, it comes once a week. Dry and wet waste are collected together,” a resident said.

The resident of core areas and South Thimphu also had similar complaints.

Taba residents said that the dumper trucks now came twice a week. “In the past two weeks, the trucks didn’t even come once. The service providers said that Covid-19 testing of workers took time,” a resident said.

Similarly, the residents in Motithang, Hejo, and Babena said that the garbage trucks came twice a week.

An official with Green Bhutan Corporation Limited, responsible for waste collection in south Thimphu, said that they couldn’t collect for the past few days since the compactor broke down and had difficulties procuring the parts due to lockdown.

He said that the thromde had provided them with replacement and they were collecting twice a week—dry and wet waste separately. They have five garbage trucks in the field.

A pickup truck is allocated for quarantine waste and to collect waste from red zones.

Dealing with the fiery issue

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:44

Residents of Samdrupjongkhar woke up to the news of yet another house lost to a fire incident.

Luckily, there were no casualties this time.

On the same night last year, Samdrupjongkhar lost an eight-year-old boy to a similar house fire. The boy died when the semi-permanent house he was living in was razed to the ground in Jomotshangkha.

The universal trend with such incidents is that they occur at night. It is what makes containment a herculean task. Thanks to the volunteers and the armed force personnel in Dewathang, the fire was controlled in time before it caught on to nearby structures. They prevented a family from losing two houses in a matter of a few hours.

The Dewathang house fire is typical of the many that occur in the country year after year. If the place had better fire fighting equipment or better-trained fire fighting residents, the devastation could have been less severe. Despite many fire mishaps every year, most of our homes don’t even have a basic fire extinguisher. We are still bent on combating the fires with buckets and jugs.

More than Nu 1.5 million worth of construction materials were lost to the fire. Worse still, the house was not insured. Such mishaps forced many a building owner from riches to rags. Some drowned in heavy debt. Being pennywise, we try to save not investing in insurance as a result we lose pounds aplenty. 

Even as the news of the fire in Dewathang was settling in among the residents, another massive fire razed structures to ground in the other extreme end of the country. The fire in Paro yesterday evening, like many others before it, is suspected to have caused by an electric short circuit.

A major problem, albeit a complex one, is the poor quality of electrical wiring in our homes. Most house fires are either proven or suspected to be caused by electrical short circuits. And the trend is not improving.

Building contractors still give in to the pressure of cutting costs and enhance their profit margins by using substandard materials.

We need a quality control mechanism in the construction business coupled with strict monitoring for electrical wiring and other aspects of housing, public or private. Otherwise, the risks are clear.

With the dry winters, strong afternoon winds, a high percentage of wood used in constructions, poor wiring, and the rapidly clustering houses, Bhutanese towns comprise perfect ingredients for a major tragedy.

In Bhutan, the frequency of fires warrants an unrelenting campaign in both the urban and rural areas. If we cannot invest to fight them, there is no other way but to prevent them no matter the cost.

We know that the Paro fire will not be the last. Judging by the conditions, there will be many more. 

Female ox?

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:43

Nima Wangdi

Female ox and female rooster.  Sounds odd?

The gender of animals in Bhutanese astrology cannot be changed even if you think it is strange. The ox and rooster will be female, if not biologically.

The interpretation is different and should not be taken literally, according to those who know the reason behind using gender in specifying the sex of Ox and Rooster in the lunar or local calendar.

The year of the Female Ox has caused much confusion to those who know a bull or ox is a male animal even if we do not use the default gender for animals.

However, according to our astrology, the Ox in the 12 years represented by animal signs would always be a female. The same applies to the rooster. This is because the ox and rooster falls in the female cyclic animals, according to astrologer Rinchen Wangdi who is also a lecturer with the Paro College of Education.

Eight years from now we will welcome the Female Rooster Year.

Many were confused and some even made fun of the gender of the ox, the new year, Female Iron Ox Year,  which will begin from February 12.

Buddhist scholar and founder of Loden Foundation, Karma Phuntsho (PhD) explains that the male and female in our calendar are rendering of the Chinese Yin and Yang qualities.

Rat, tiger, dragon, horse, monkey and dog are considered male because they have the masculine yang quality, he said. Rests of the animals are considered to possess female Yin qualities. The tradition of 12 male and female zodiac animals and five elements originated in Chinese astrology, which we call Jungtsi, according to Karma Phuntsho (PhD).

He said the oxymoronic term “female ox” is a problem of cultural translation. “In Dzongkha, the term Lang refers to an ox but in Choekey, it does not necessarily refer to an ox. The term is gender neutral,” he explained.

Karma Phuntsho (PhD) said in current English, there is no common gender neutral term, which can be used to refer to both cow and ox. Thus, we have the problem of translating Mo Lang.  He said the best perhaps is to render it as Female cow year or as Feminine Ox Year.

“This is a good example of how we will create cultural confusion as we use a foreign language to convey cultural concepts,” he said.

Astrologer Rinchen Wangdi said all the 12 zodiac animals are categorised into two, male and female. Rat, tiger, dragon, horse, monkey and dog are male. Ox, rabbit, snake, sheep, bird (rooster) and pig are female. The gender of these animals in astrology are not at all interchangeable. Male and female years come alternately.

“People should not think of the actual biological gender of the cyclic animals. In astrology they are termed as female,” he said. “We are not talking about biological gender here,” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, people mocked the 2021-2022 lunar calendar when seeing the year named as “Female Ox Year.”  The Kuensel calendar with a picture of the female ox wearing a gho added to the confusion, providing material for mockery.

“The Ox could be a female astrologically, but Kuensel took it to another level by dressing the ox in a gho, the female Bhutanese attire,” wrote one.

Male or female, we hope the ox will work hard, or we work like the ox, in the new year and bring us a lot of success.

Fire damage construction materials worth Nu 1.5M

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:43

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar 

A single-storey house was razed to the ground in Dewathang, Samdrupjongkhar around 9pm on January 6.

Armed force personnel, DeSuups and local residents contained the fire before it spread to nearby houses.  The fire brigade and RBA tankers doused the fire around 10:20pm.

The house had a huge stock of planks and other construction materials which made it difficult for the firefighters to control it.

There was no one living in the house because the house was used as a store for the construction materials.

The construction materials, about three truckloads of seasoned planks and other materials, have been lost in the fire. The front portion of the owner’s main house attached to the store was also partially damaged.

According to sources, the owner of the store lost the construction materials worth about Nu 1.5 million.

Meanwhile, the investigation team from the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan’s (RICB) regional office visited the site to carry out the verification of the damages yesterday.

“But we could not help the victim as it was not insured for both commercial and rural insurance,” the manager, Sonam Dendup, said, adding that the team convinced the victim to insure in future.

Sources said that no casualties were reported and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Breaching lockdown protocol could get you prison term: AG

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:42

Police investigating Covid-19 positive patient for breaching protocol

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Anyone who breaches nationwide lockdown protocol will be prosecuted and would incur hefty fines in terms of quarantine and related costs, according to the Attorney General Lungten Dubgyur.

The attorney general said that 45 (33 alone in Thimphu) cases had breached the lockdown protocol as of January 6, involving 122 individuals.

He said that the Office of the Attorney General would charge the defaulters with Criminal Nuisance, Section 410 of the Penal Code of Bhutan and Breach of Public Order and Tranquillity (Section 448) of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

According to Section 410, a defendant is guilty of the offence of criminal nuisance if the defendant knowingly or recklessly creates or maintains a condition including spreading a dangerous disease that injures or endangers the safety or health of the public.

The offence is graded fourth degree, which is liable for a prison term of between three and five years.

Section 448 states that if the defendant purposely fails to abide by the government’s orders issued in the interest of public safety, public order and tranquillity, it will be graded as a petty misdemeanour liable for imprisonment of less than one year and more than three months.

Attorney general said that the defendant would also be liable to reinstitute the expenditure for 21 days’ quarantine. He added that the OAG would also charge and prosecute people for aiding and abetting under Section 125 of Penal Code of Bhutan 2004.

“The situation is becoming quite severe, and we can’t take risk because the protocol breach would endanger lives of people,” attorney general said. “The cases related to Covid-19 are considered non-compoundable.”

The OAG has prosecuted 139 Covid-19 related cases since the closure of international borders on March 23 last year and first nationwide lockdown in August last year involving 239 defendants.

The OAG has convicted 75 cases and imprisoned for a maximum of 15 years. Another 57 cases are still pending with the court since the cases could not process due to second nationwide lockdown.

The attorney general said that the defendants could appeal to the high court. However, only about four cases have appealed so far.

He said the police are investigating a case where an individual who tested positive had visited several locations including some places away from their zone, despite existing lockdown protocol.

The individual had tested positive from a flu clinic in Thimphu on January 6. The health ministry had traced around 50 people as the individual’s close contacts.

“For the uniform application of law, we’ll be investigating the person and charge for breaching the protocol,” Lungten Dubgyur said. “Police will investigate how he managed to breach the protocol, visit from one zone to another, where he went and why.”

He added that the police would also investigate whether other people were involved in aiding or soliciting him to visit from one zone to another.

The person would also be liable for treatment expense and expenses for his contacts’ treatment if the contact tests positive. The person will also be charged for the different counts depending on if his contacts test positive.

Meanwhile, the zoning team has reminded people to stringently follow the movement pass guidelines since there is a great risk of spreading the virus resulting in extended lockdown in Thimphu, according to the press release.

The press release stated that penalty would be applied for violation of the guidelines into two categories, a minor violation and major violation.

A minor violation will include entering zone(s) other than your zone, going out during a non-assigned time block, more than one person going out with a card, and going out without a card.

It would also fall under minor violation if more than one person comes out with a card, going to other people’s house, and not wearing a facemask.

For the minor violation, DeSuups will counsel the violators on the use of movement pass and confiscate the card for the first time violation. DeSuups will confiscate the card for three days for second violation, and violation would be considered major if violated for third time and confiscate the card for a week.

It will be treated as a major violation if one uses non-authorised or fake movement pass and the case will be reported to the police. The movement pass of the associated household will be confiscated for the duration of the lockdown.

The case will be also reported to police if an unauthorised vehicle is used during the lockdown.

PII worker dies in accident

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:41

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

The body of a 43-year-old expatriate worker, who passed away in an accident on January 6, has been sent to his home in Jharkhand, India.

On January 6, around 11pm, the man was run over by a tipper truck inside the machine hall, inside the powerhouse complex of PII.

He passed away on the way to the Jaiprakash Associates Limited (Jaypee Group) dispensary from the site.

According to Jaypee Group’s project manager, KK Sood, although the truck was moving slowly, as the road was narrow, the man who was standing beside the road, had slipped and fallen under the wheels.

All the formalities have been filled with help from the Indian Embassy and the project management to hand over the body to his family at earliest.

With two Jaypee group workers as escorts, the ambulance with the body left by 5pm for Phuentsholing from Bajo in Wangdue yesterday.

Rapid antigen tests for the two escorts and the ambulance driver were conducted.

The body will be handed over to two workers waiting across the border at Jaigaon.

The ambulance driver and the two escorts will be placed in isolation upon their return to Wangdue.

The deceased had been working with Jaypee Group in Bhutan since November 2015.

KK Sood said that he would be paid the insured amount of Rs 3.125 million (M).

Bhutan records first Covid-19 death 

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 03:39

The man dies of liver failure complications while also Covid-19 positive 

Younten Tshedup

A  34-year-old man with pre-existing medical condition became the country’s first casualty from the Covid-19 pandemic, Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo confirmed late last night.

The death comes amidst the local outbreak in Thimphu and Paro, where 17 positive cases are detected daily on an average.

The deceased who was a known case of chronic liver disease under medical treatment had tested positive for Covid-19 on December 23 last year. Since then, he was managed at the isolation ward at the national referral hospital before he succumbed to his illness yesterday.

Clinical microbiologist and a member of the health ministry’s technical advisory group (TAG), Dr Tshokey said that during his illness, he had developed acute liver failure, which also led to acute kidney damage.

He said that while in isolation, the deceased underwent a repeat RT-PCR test on January 5. He was still diagnosed positive for Covid-19 and his blood tests were negative for the antibodies. A retest was due today.

Dr Tshokey said, “It was not easy and clear to include this as a Covid-19 death. The man died of acute hepato-renal failure complicated by Covid-19,” he said. “Such cases have very poor outcomes unless they undergo liver transplant. But since he died with Covid-19, we have included the death as a Covid-19 death.”

According to the treating physician, the prognosis of such cases with hepato-renal failure was grave. The microbiologist said that there were several arguments when it came to categorise a death as Covid-19 death. 

Some argue that to categorise a death as Covid-19 death, the deceased had to have severe respiratory problems or pneumonia typical of Covid-19.

Dr Tshokey said that the deceased did not have any respiratory problems while in the isolation. He, however, had severe liver damage where the laboratory examination had shown that his liver function test was ‘grossly deranged’.

On the management of the body, Dr Tshokey said that it would be taken care by the Red Cross Society as per existing protocols. The health ministry already has a standard operating procedure (SOP) to manage bodies in the event of death due to Covid-19.

Special body bags from Copenhagen, Denmark, have been procured to wrap bodies of those dying from Covid-19. The body would be prepared and placed in the body bag by health workers and then handed over to the representatives of the Bhutan Red Cross Society, who are already trained to handle them at the crematorium.

Dr Tshokey said that there was not much risk from it. “Covid-19 is spread through aerosols and droplets usually expelled while coughing or sneezing. It doesn’t transmit through other bodily fluids such as blood.”

The microbiologist said that the country so far has been fortunate in preventing deaths from the pandemic. “While countries worldwide are recording thousands of deaths daily, we have been very fortunate so far,” he said, adding that all Covid-19 positive cases were provided with the best care and medical attention by a team of dedicated health workers round the clock.

“However, no country has a death-shield against the pandemic and now we know it.” He said that when people become complacent and let their guards down, the unfortunate happen. “While the young could recover from the disease, elderlies and those with comorbidities might not. People should understand this by now that Covid-19 can infect anyone and kill someone.”

Dr Tshokey added if people do not adhere to the protocols and follow preventive measures, there will be more cases and complications.

Chronically ill man dies with Covid-19

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 20:40

A 34-year-old man with pre-existing medical conditions (chronic liver disease and renal failure) who was detected with COVID-19 died today. 

He was managed at the Covid-19 ward at the JDWNRH campus.

On December 21, he was brought to JDWNRH for the treatment of severe hepatitis during which he was detected with Covid-19. Laboratory examination showed that his liver function test was grossly deranged and he was diagnosed with severe acute hepatitis. He received hemodialysis for acute kidney failure.

According to the treating physician, the prognosis of such cases with hepato-renal failure is grave.

Hydropower generation increased by 31 percent in 2020

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 00:55

MB Subba 

While almost all the sectors of the economy took a severe hit in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hydropower saw a significant growth with energy generation increasing by 31.45 percent.

Total generation from the six hydropower plants that are in operation increased to 11,364 million units (MU) in 2020 from 8,645 MU in the previous year, according to the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC). The increase in the generation is attributed to better rainfalls and the commissioning of the Mangdechhu project.

Tala, Chukha, Kurichhu and Basochhu hydropower plants are directly under DGPC. The Mangdechhu plant is under the Mangdechhu Hydropower Project Authority (MHPA) although the operation and management component is managed by DGPC while Dagachhu is incorporated under the Companies Act.

Electricity is the single largest export with India as the sole importer.

According to DGPC, the country exported a total 9,121 MU of electricity worth more than Nu 27.042 billion (B) in 2020. The total domestic sale amounted to 2,108MU worth Nu 3.144B.

Managing Director of DGPC, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, said that the higher generation of the DGPC power plants and Dagachhu and better hydrology in the year that just went by contributed to the increase in generation.

The generation from MHPA increased significantly to 3,218MU in 2020 from 1,320 MU in the previous year. The plant was commissioned in June 2019 and had been in operation for the full year in 2020.

“Overall, this year was a good year as far as hydrology was concerned. We got early rains and the monsoon receded a little later than usual,” Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said. “The hydrological flows in the river were better than expected.”

The DGPC MD said that except for some inconveniences, the Covid-19 pandemic has not affected the operation and maintenance of all the hydropower plants.

Throughout the pandemic, he said that the government has been always forthcoming in ensuring that the power plants did not have to face any problems. DHI, he said, helped coordinate everything that was required to deal with the pandemic at the power plants and facilitate in whatever way possible.

“Most importantly, there was excellent coordination with our counterparts on the Indian side and there was no disruption of electricity export despite the difficult situation on both sides. On Bhutan’s side, BPC ensured that domestic supply continued uninterrupted,” Dasho Chhewang Rinzin added.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said that all the hydropower plants under operation have had a very successful year. The impact, he said, has mostly been on the hydropower projects where the pace of construction suffered from the pandemic.

“Hopefully, 2021 will see the construction of these hydropower projects pick up once again,” he said.

As the country’s GDP growth is inexplicably linked with the growth of the hydropower sector, a strong growth in the hydropower generation is expected to offset some impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Till 2019, the overall hydropower revenue constituted about 24 percent of direct revenues for the government and offset much of the balance of payments with India. But the share of domestic revenues from other sectors are likely to decrease as the total domestic revenue is estimated to fall by 14 percent in 2020.

Phuentsholing’s first day of lockdown

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 00:54

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The early hours of the first day of easing lockdown in Phuentsholing were calm yesterday. There weren’t many people in the town.

But by midday, the crowd had ballooned.

A shopkeeper, taken by surprise of the crowd, said he remembered the days before the pandemic.

“Even DeSuups were finding it difficult to manage.”

He said that if people crowd like this, the pandemic and lockdowns would remain forever.

“Everyone should play their own role to prevent the virus. Otherwise, another lockdown is not very far.”

Following the government’s announcement on easing the lockdown, Phuentsholing, which was a “red zone” before started lifting the lockdown phase-wise. The first phase started from 6am yesterday and will conclude on January 12.

In the first phase, the zoning system had been discontinued. Movement of people within the thromde areas on foot has been allowed until 6pm. All shops, restaurants and automobile workshops are also allowed to open from 8am to 5pm.

Restaurants and bars are allowed to operate at 50 percent of their capacity and takeaway orders are encouraged.

Movement of utility, emergency and authorised vehicles are also allowed. Cremation services with not more than 20 people are allowed.

Phuentsholing has been through a rough phase since the first lockdown and being declared as the red zone last year. Although the bordering town is a green zone this time, the town has the highest risk.

The residents are aware of this.

Waiting for his first sale of the day in his small shop, Kinzang Wangdi said he doesn’t have big hopes this year.

“There may be a lockdown here anytime.”

He is convinced the Covid-19 spread can be controlled by following the basic rules of washing hands, wearing masks, maintaining distances and refraining from gatherings.

“At least 80 percent depends on these simple rules. This is how Phuentsholing has been safe this time,” he said.

Business-wise, Phuentsholing has not been the same. Although it remains the primary trading hub, the population has decreased and local business is just among the local people.

A businessman, Namgay, said the population has decreased in the town with hundreds of students shifted to other dzongkhags.

“Many have also shifted their families to places like Paro and Thimphu.”

Considering the first lockdown last year, Namgay said that the lockdown this time was better managed. Along with the Southern Covid-19 task force, he said having Covid-19 Incident Management team was better.

“The only thing we need to do now is to monitor the illegal entries of people from the border,” he said.

“The MDP and the Allay LCS must also be handled cautiously.”

Namgay also said that allowing vehicles would be more proper in balancing the crowd in the town.

“Since the inter-district movements are still not allowed, vehicles within the town could be allowed,” he said.

He said shops and businesses could also close by 8pm.

With vehicle movements restricted, many said allowing automobile workshops to operate was useless.

Meanwhile, offices, schools and other institutions are still closed. All forms of games and sports are also not allowed to open.

All entertainment centres such as drayangs, discotheques, karaokes, snookers and video game parlours are also asked to remain shut. Visiting lhakhangs, picnics and hiking are also not allowed in the first phase.

Stranded people will have to complete seven days’ mandatory facility quarantine and will be sent if they test negative on RT-PCR.

Unlocking begins, lochoes still not allowed

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 00:53

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

In Gasetshowom, 61-year-old Namgay had already postponed his lochoe (annual ritual) once due to the second nationwide lockdown.

Despite the implementation of smart unlocking in Wangdue, Namgay’s annual ritual doesn’t seem doable any sooner.

The dzongkhag Covid-19 task force has decided not to allow lochoes and annual rimdros.

“In our village, except for one household, which conducted their lochoe before the lockdown, no one has conducted their lochoe,” Namgay said.

In Wangdue, the smart unlocking allows movement of people within the dzongkhag until 9pm. However, apart from vehicles carrying essential items, private vehicles aren’t allowed to move.

“Today, I am looking for another date. Hopefully, I can conduct it within February,” Namgay.

In Gasetshowom gewog, Wangdue, of the 117 households, only about five percent of them had conducted their annual ritual, according to Gewog Mangmi Pema.

The dzongkhag task force has notified that as part of smart unlocking, gewog offices, financial service providers, essential service providers such as Bhutan Telecom, BPC, T-Cell, and the municipal office would be allowed to open tomorrow.

All construction works within self-contained zones were allowed starting yesterday.

Except for entertainment centres, shops are allowed to open in the dzongkhag until 9pm.

Today, Pelela area in Wangdue and Phenteykha village in Punakha have been identified as yellow zones.

Movement through Pelela wouldn’t be allowed and only shops providing essential items are to remain open in the area.

In Phenteykha, while farming activities are permitted, movement outside the zone is restricted.

“They will need to complete the 21-day mandatory quarantine,” Punakha Dzongdag Karma Drukpa said.

Smart lockdown relaxation in Punakha was implemented yesterday. Movement would be allowed within the dzongkhag until 5pm.

Wangdue and Punakha will allow entry to people from red zones, but they have to complete the compulsory seven-day quarantine.

As part of Punakha’s smart lockdown relaxation procedure, offices providing essential services are allowed to operate.

Funerals are allowed with a maximum of 20 individuals and four vehicles. Lochoes and rimdros are restricted.

In Gasa, unlocking began yesterday. After a week, the dzongkhag will conduct random screening and the second phase of unlocking will begin accordingly. In Gasa, shops are allowed to operate until 6pm.

All restaurants in Wangdue, Punakha and Gasa are allowed to provide only take-away services and not entertain sit-ins.

Better option is going tough

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 00:51

Lockdown paints a dark picture in our minds. Some even liken it to a nuclear meltdown, and justly so.  Covid-19 has been an unrelenting virus that can affect us all, irrespective of age and status and place. The fact that we know why Covid-19 positive cases in Thimphu continues to rise even after lockdown means that the time has now come for us to adopt a novel way to deal with the novel threat.

And the threat is growing.

Here is the picture of what we have achieved together so far: not a single death from Covid-19; critical health services have been taken to the nooks and corners of the country so that our people can avail themselves of urgent medical attention; hundreds of positives cases are being given medical support, which is almost unimaginable elsewhere; and thousands continue to receive the Royal Kidu.

There is something called the “smart lockdown model”, which we have begun to adopt. But the people still continue to ask what “smart lockdown” really is. Education and awareness have been in short supply, it seems. A “smart lockdown” basically means finding an alternative to reduce the pressure on the economy and lives of the people during lockdown when everything is shut pretty much to a standstill. This, in Bhutan, has to be understood in the context of the new zone system: where the threat of Covid-19 is less, people are allowed to move around and carry out certain economic and other useful activities.

Lockdown is not a pleasant experience, of course, but it is in our hands to make it either short or long. Going by the number of Covid-19 positive cases that are being detected every day in Thimphu, there is no other way than to further prolong the lockdown. On January 5 alone, the capital was bombarded with 21 new Covid-19 positive cases. We also know that a person had breached the lockdown rules which helped spread the virus in the community.

We have come a long way but we also know where we are falling short. Information flow is one. It needs improvement. Information is best when delivered without embellishment. In an effort to play and negotiate with the language and words, we are creating more confusion among the people. This is not a healthy trend. Confusion creates fear and fear leads to panic. That’s the least we want at this time of our journey with the pandemic.

If we are doing so much better than other countries in dealing with the Covid-19 threats, we could be at the same time doing the worst by comparing with or against them. It is important that we set our own standards and that calls for a radical change in our ways in dealing with the virus and its threats. What about creating an efficient online reporting system that some countries have tried with good success rate? And more, why not?

The increasing cases of protocol breach means that we are far too lax and lenient. If what we have so far put to test doesn’t work, it may be time already to employ new measures. The tougher the measures, the better it would be for the country and the people. There is no better option left for Bhutan.

Lhamoidzingkha still under lockdown

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 00:51

But residents are allowed to work in farms

Chimi Dema | Tsirang

Dagana dzongkhag implemented the first phase of smart lockdown relaxations from yesterday but Lhamoidzingkhag town is categorised a yellow zone after detecting five positive Covid-19 cases from December 21 to 31.

Movement of people within Lhamoidzingkha drungkhag is limited to cardholders only but residents could tend to farm work with a maximum of five family members.

Drungpa Kinley Dorji said that with the town declared a yellow zone, the drungkhag is still following zoning system like the usual lockdown.

The movement of vehicles for emergencies within the drungkhag is allowed only with approval from security personnels. People who want to travel out of the drungkhag will need to undergo seven-day mandatory quarantine and RT-PCR test.

The essential shops are allowed to remain open from 8am to 4pm. Funeral rites with minimal gathering will be permitted with prior approval from the incident commander. No construction and sporting activities are permitted.

All institutions, schools, regional offices and business entities including hotels, restaurants and bars would remain closed.

As part of mass testing, more than 1,200 individuals in the drungkhag were tested for the virus so far. A total of 34 primary contacts of the positive cases are kept in facility quarantine and 29 under strict home quarantine.

Meanwhile, residents in other 11 gewogs in the dzongkhag are allowed to move intra dzongkhag but movement of vehicles are restricted to only emergency and utility. Travel of stranded people and emergency cases would be facilitated after carrying out an antigen test.

Business entities such as groceries, hardware, workshops, bakeries, electronic and garment shops are allowed to operate from 8am to 7pm. Restaurants are allowed to open with takeaway services. The weekend vegetable market will remain closed.

Except for funeral rites, no other religious activities and celebrations are allowed. Construction activities that can mobilise labourers and resources from within the dzongkhag are allowed.

While schools and offices will remain closed, financial institutions are allowed to operate with a minimum number of staff.

Meanwhile in Tsirang, all boarding schools operate in containment mode with day scholar students facilitated online.

All construction activities not requiring travelling beyond the worksites are allowed and transportation of construction materials is permitted with movement cards.

Except for hotels, restaurants, bars, karaoke, barber, saloon, spa, snookers, all business entities are allowed to operate. Meat shops and automobile workshops are not allowed to open.

Cremation services are permitted with not exceeding 20 people.

Movement of vehicle is restricted to only utility and emergencies. Surveillance team would monitor in-bound travellers.

Pandemic delays Digital Drukyul projects

Thu, 01/07/2021 - 00:50

Chhimi Dema

The global pandemic impacted the development of two major projects of Digital Drukyul flagship programme, the Bhutan Integrated Tax System (BITS) and Electronic Patient Information System (ePIS).

Thimphu TechPark Limited (TTPL) was given the two projects, BITS is an integrated online tax filing services and ePIS is a health care information system that holds digital health records.

TTPL’s chief executive officer, Tshering Cigay Dorji (PhD), said that Covid-19 health protocols and restrictions impacted the progress of BITS project.

He said TTPL planned to invite at least 10 officials from TTPL’s international partner, IUnetworks to develop the system but only three officials arrived. “TTPL signed a contract agreement with the Department of Revenue and Customs and IUnetworks in Armenia last year.”

Tshering Cigay Dorji said they have been resorting to online collaboration as much as possible and have made progress but it was not as effective as working face-to-face.

He also said TTPL was in the final stages of confirming the international partner for the development of the ePIS project. “TTPL was assigned with these projects to build the capacity and competence of Bhutanese IT professionals.”

He said that foreign companies normally developed such projects in the past, using their ready-made commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software products developed for mass-market rather than bespoke solutions with Bhutanese private firms as local partners. “This did not help in building local IT capacity.”

Tshering Cigay Dorji said that they were engaging international partners to execute these projects but with active engagement from TTPL in co-development of the systems using the partner’s software platforms or frameworks.

He said: “Our engagement would provide continued maintenance support for these systems locally, and also explore exporting similar services to clients outside Bhutan in the future.”

He, however, said that since there were changes in the project implementation modality which requires more time and effort, it was challenging for them to get the required time and the effort from the stakeholders.