If Phuentsholing residents followed safety measures or the Covid-19 protocols would be known soon after officials trace and test the contacts of the 11 people who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday morning. 

Just as the lockdown was lifted, residents were asked to stay indoors following the detection of positive cases. The staff who had been functioning in a self-containment mode at the medical supply depot had mingled with the people and visited public places prompting the taskforce to call another 24-hour strict lockdown or blackout. 

Recognising the nature of the virus and how it spreads, there are strict, yet, simple preventive measures put in place like wearing face masks, using the tracing app, physical distancing and washing hands. The measures are not fool proof, but it is proven that they help break the chain or help officials track, trace and test people to stop the spread. If the staff or their family members had worn face masks or used the tracing app, or shopkeepers insisted on using them, it would have helped a lot. They should have, as the health ministry, the minister, taskforce members, police and de-suups had been reminding people of the simple measures. It would be sad and unfortunate if cases multiply because of letting the guards down. 

With the latest double digit detection, there are debates if it was too early to lift the lockdown, if authorities yielded to the pressure from the residents or if they were falsely convinced. It is a case of becoming wiser after the event. 

Phuentsholing residents know best. They had been under the longest lockdown period, more than four months. They had suffered, but cooperated in letting authorities work and keeping the rest of us safe. It was not fair. But what is the best alternative to a lockdown? We don’t have one except being cautious and adhering to the safety protocols. 

While it is sad to hear that the lockdown relaxation was abruptly cut short, it is the reality. Lockdowns will keep happening if there are cases in the community. That is the only solution to screen and clean the community of the virus. 

The Delta variant still infects people who have been fully vaccinated. In some countries, even with a third or booster dose, people are getting infected. Worse, the latest news on the Delta variant is that because it is spreading fast and infecting fully vaccinated people, the herd immunity that we hoped for is not a possibility. The Oxford Vaccine Group has just found out that even with a 95 percent vaccination coverage, achieving herd or population immunity is “not a possibility”. At best, it can slow the spread or hospitalisation, but it is still infecting people.

This brings us back to the basics – implementing the Covid-19 protocols and following it religiously. The responsibility falls on all the people. There has been enough awareness and the people know it. The difference is being responsible. Given that Phuentsholing is still a high-risk area, the next best thing after a lockdown is following the protocols. Each one must play a part. There are calls on leadership at all levels to enhance participation. It could help. A head of a company had warned his people, kept in containment mode, to resign if they breached the protocols and got infected. It may sound harsh, but it is for their safety and others. Like we say, if the carrot fails, we need to stick to the stick.