The prime minister’s office sent out a press release on Sunday. It was a plea to the people of Bhutan to cooperate and support the frontline workers.

The release follows two incidents where two people had entered the country without following the protocols and thereby risking all the efforts led by His Majesty The King and implemented diligently by government officials and those on the frontline. Health workers and law enforcement officials had a busy weekend conducting contact tracing from Samtse to Thimphu and Covid-19 tests. All this happened when most of us were enjoying our weekend visiting lhalkhangs, celebrating birthday parties or gatherings. All tests have come negative and the people traced advised to stay quarantined.

All is well so far.

Jumping borders or trying to avoid the procedures is the number one risk of a community transmission. We have 87 coronavirus positive cases. They were detected, isolated and recovered or recovering even without having to take medicines, forget putting on ventilators. Covid-19 can kill people, but if detected early and treated, it is like a normal flu.  Our success without zero death is attributed to our preventive measures. One or two people trying to cheat systems in place could jeopardise the whole effort and put the entire country at risk.

Lest we forget, our leaders’ approach to preventing an outbreak is one of a kind, not heard of in any country, including in the developed nations. We are putting people in luxurious hotels for 21 days with three meals, free internet and entertainment ensured. Millions are spent on organising entertainment programmes to save the boredom while in quarantine.  The Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu and the fiscal and monetary packages have not only helped people, but also benefited some. There will be no initiatives like this during a global pandemic.

We have a role and it is simple. The entry points with screening facilities are there to save life. It is not a gate to a ghetto or a prison. It is to ensure our safety. The responsibility to prevent a community transmission is on every Bhutanese. Leaving it to the police, DeSuups, foresters or other volunteers alone is not fair.  Given the porous border, some parts not manned, an extra pair of eyes could help our vigilance. With risk now identified to be from across the border, every Bhutanese should report anything suspicious whether it is people crossing borders on foot, swimming across rivers or in military or government vehicles. The new coronavirus doesn’t differentiate in infecting people. There should be no exceptions made this time.

There are laws and penalties, but even a death sentence will not help if there is a positive case in our community without the notice of the authorities. It would spell disaster. Governments across the globe are clamping down on people with lockdowns and other strict measures. Here we are pleading with the people to cooperate.

The PMO is calling on the people to share and explain about the risks of entering the country illegally. It is not a difficult job. It really can help our preventive efforts.