Bhutan to await 'auspicious' time for Covid-19 jab roll-out

Thimpu (Bhutan) (AFP) –


Bhutan received 150,000 coronavirus vaccine shots on Wednesday, but the Himalayan kingdom has insisted that no one will get the jab until the current "inauspicious month" ends on March 13.

"Once we have the required number of doses, our plan is to vaccinate the entire population... in one week," the prime minister's office said in a statement late Monday ahead of the donation of the jabs by India.

It was "important we roll out the nationwide vaccination on an auspicious date," he added.

"Upon consulting with Zhung Dratshang (the Commission for Monastic Affairs), we were informed of dana (inauspicious month) which falls between February 14 and March 13. We will wait until the period is over," the statement said.

The announcement attracted little criticism in the traditionalist and deeply-Buddhist kingdom, frequently listed as one of the world's happiest nations, where many firmly believe in astrology.

A total of 533,000 people will be vaccinated, representing the total population of 750,000 minus those under 18 and pregnant and breastfeeding women, the government said.

The Himalayan nation wedged between India and China -- which is carbon neutral and was an absolute monarchy until 2008 -- last week recorded its first death from coronavirus.

The government imposed a strict lockdown in December after the number of infections rose sharply, and has barred foreign tourists since March.