Support to the National Response to contain the impact of COVID-19

Situational Analysis and Strategy


The number of COVID-19 cases in Bhutan now stands at 183. All are imported - two tourists, who have left the country, and the remaining are returning Bhutanese students and overseas workers. The pandemic has severely impacted its tourism sector, which accounts for 9% of the country's GDP and is the second largest source of public revenue after hydropower. An estimated 50,000 people (6 % of the population and 16 % of the working population) engaged in tourism are directly impacted.

The months of March, April and May are usually the busiest, with approximately one-third of annual tourist arrivals visiting in these months. With all tourists having left and bookings cancelled for several months, Bhutan is missing out entirely on the Spring high season. The situation has led to closure of numerous hotels and tour agents, resulting in jobs losses. If the tourist ban currently in place is prolonged, the economy will suffer and unemployment will rise, especially youth unemployment, which is already as high as 15.6%. As Bhutan imports more than half of all essential food and non-food items, the closure of borders could lead to food security crisis in the country.

Under the leadership of His Majesty, the Royal Government has taken proactive measures early on by establishing mandatory quarantine mechanisms. As per the National Preparedness and Response Plan, immediately following the detection of the first confirmed case, the Government declared alert level “Orange”. The Government has put in place a ban on all incoming tourists.

On March 22nd, His Majesty the King addressed the nation, announcing the temporary closure of border crossings with India. The Government has institutionalized working from home mechanism/reduced workforce in public offices since 30 March. The combination of these measures has proven to be effective in preventing community transmission to date.

His Majesty has announced an economic stimulus package of Nu 30 billion, called the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu, which includes financial support to people and businesses affected by COVID-19. The government has taken a set of fiscal and monetary measures to minimize the impact of the pandemic especially on vulnerable populations.

The UN has developed a framework, called Protective Shield, for coordinated support to the Government to respond to COVID-19. The shield has been presented to the Prime Minister. UNDP is leading three areas of the shield focusing on employment, macro-economic response, and real-time tracking/socio-economic impact assessment. A technical group comprising of six UN agencies and World Bank is overseeing the assessment process.

UNDP supported the Government in conducting a rapid socioeconomic impact assessment on tourism and allied sectors. By partnering with the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a multidimensional vulnerability index for tourism was developed, which revealed that 81 % of the respondents were deprived of in more than three indicators. 

UNDP is providing PPE for medical waste handlers and frontline health workers. UNDP is supporting the Ministry of Health in rolling out the following IT emergency solutions developed to gather real-time data collection for rapid and effective response to COVID-19 pandemic:

·         Health Facility System: Obtain real time demographic information of all people visiting the Flu Clinic. 

·         Gate System (Border gate): Keeping record of all people coming in and going out. 

·         Quarantine monitoring and tracking system: for people in the quarantine facilities across the country. 

·         Mobile App for people in quarantine to update symptoms and report any issues.  



Areas of interventions


Socio-economic Impact and Recovery

UNDP has implemented large initiatives for livelihoods and business development in Bhutan. It has strong partnerships with the government, civil society and communities and can provide support to:

·       Design and implement large livelihoods and economic recovery programmes for the most affected populations

·       Design, deliver and monitor the impact of social protection schemes and economic stimulus packages especially at the micro level. The Real Time Tracker is an example.

·       Lead and coordinate macro-economic response in collaboration with other partners

Inclusive and Integrated Crisis Management and Response  

As part of the UN support framework, UNDP could lead the early recovery response to COVID-19 by:

·       Undertaking public awareness and community engagement at national and sub-national level

·       Facilitating multi stakeholders’ coordination and response

·       Managing small and large grants schemes. UNDP is already administering a small grants programme for micro enterprises.

·       Providing policy advice for designing and rolling social safety nets


 Health Systems and Procurement Support

UNDP is providing support to protect medical waste handlers and health workers against COVID-19. It can support national health system by providing:

·       Socially responsive procurement services for health supplies

·       Expert advice on the specification, quantification, sourcing and quality assurance of health products and equipment

·       Community outreach for needs identification, provision and monitoring of health supplies

Financial resources


UNDP has so far allocated $340K for socio-economic recovery and health system support from its core resource. The focus of UNDP support is to strengthen national institutions and minimize the social and economic impact of COVID-19. 


Areas of Intervention




Socio-economic needs assessment and response

$ 500,000


$ 450,000

Crisis response and management

$ 2,500,000

$ 150,000

$ 2,350,000

Health System Support

$ 1,000,000


$ 860,000


$ 4,000,000

$ 340,000

$ 3, 660,000






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