Bhutan bans tourists after first virus case arrives from India

Despite its heavy reliance on high-end tourism for foreign exchange, the kingdom has barred tourists for 2 weeks. (File pic)

NEW DELHI: Bhutan said on Friday it had banned the entry of tourists for two weeks after it confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, in a tourist who arrived from neighbouring India.

The tiny Himalayan kingdom, which is heavily reliant on high-end tourism for foreign exchange, said a 79-year-old American who entered by air from India on March 2 had tested positive for the virus.

“The government will impose two weeks restriction on all incoming tourists with immediate effect,” the health ministry said in a statement.

“This is to enable rigorous monitoring, source assessment of infection and mitigate the situation.”

The government also announced the closure of several schools and the postponement of international conferences and seminars for two weeks.

The ministry said the patient, who had entered India on Feb 21, had been put in quarantine in hospital in the capital, Thimpu.

India’s total number of confirmed cases rose to 31, after a person from New Delhi with a history of travel from Thailand and Malaysia tested positive, its health ministry said.

The coronavirus, which can cause a respiratory illness that can lead to pneumonia, is believed to have emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Globally, there have been more than 98,000 cases and more than 3,300 deaths, according to a Reuters tally. Most of the cases and deaths have been in China but the virus is now spreading in numerous countries.