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Bhutan begins easing nationwide lockdown

The Bhutan government on Tuesday began easing the nationwide lockdown imposed last month after the emergence of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The lockdown was imposed on August 11 after Covid-19 cases were found outside of a quarantine facility in Gelephu, and community transmissions were confirmed in Phuentsholing, a southern town bordering India, reports Xinhua news agency.

Addressing the nation late yesterday night, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said the lockdown measures have been successful.

He said the lockdown would be eased in a phased manner in a period of 10 days.

Phase one starts from Tuesday, where people are allowed to do essential activities such as walking, cycling and shopping within their localities.

Further easing will be carried out in phase two from Friday to Sunday, where movement of public transport within the districts will be allowed.

It will be followed by phase three, which allows movement of vehicles beyond the district with prior permission from police, said the Prime Minister.

He also said that all the relaxation initiatives should lead to a new normal that is conducive for the society to operate economic and livelihood activities while also ensuring safety of people's health.

However, lifting of the lockdown will not be applicable to southern border towns that are considered high-risk areas.

People living in these towns will be issued movement cards, which allows them to move within the designated zones.

"We will strengthen vigilance along our borders and ensure augmented safety for trading interactions. Special and additional measures will be introduced in the high-risk areas to protect the community," said Tshering.

Additional levels of protection to avoid spread of the virus from high-risk areas to low-risk communities will also be ensured.

The Prime Minister added that easing of the lockdown would not be applicable in case the ministry detects an unexpected positive case from a community.

The government will again enforce lockdown to detect further transmission, he added.

There are 225 positive cases in Bhutan, of which 83 are active and 142 have recovered..