People in the red zone dzongkhags are complaining about the seven-day mandatory quarantine if they want to leave the place to a low-risk area. They see it as harassment. And with no local transmission of the virus, many feel that the restrictions should be relaxed.
All eyes are therefore on the government, hoping for relaxation of travel restrictions. Some do not believe that the rules apply to all.
The Gelephu incident where a businesswoman tried to cut corners has not helped. While the act raised doubts among people as to whether the rule applied for only a selective section of the people, it has jeopardised the preventive efforts put in place. The “nyamchung” are convinced that there are ways to avoid the mandatory quarantine.
It is an isolated incident but it should be dealt with seriously for a number of reasons. From the way the woman bypassed authorities or how officials allegedly helped her, it gives reasons for people to doubt. Doubts on measure and procedures to stop the spread of Covid-19 should be the last thing on the minds of the people.
Restrictions have caused inconveniences. They have disrupted lives and affected businesses. But many are putting up with these for the greater common good. The risk of the virus is still there. All resources are directed towards preventing it at the cost of livelihoods and economy. We have fought well and that is our pride thus far. But we have not won the battle and so the reason to be cautious.
The woman has availed of a permit to travel without having to quarantine. She has the documents although not signed by the dzongkhag incident commander. Fortunately, authorities have acted swiftly and quarantined her two days after her arrival in the capital. As there is no community transmission in Gelephu, likely she will come out clean. But that is not the end. We have penalised many for breach of Covid-19 protocols. Some are given four to five years of imprisonment terms.
For many, the Gelephu case is worse than crossing the border to sell a bull or a bottle of beer. It, many say, is collusion between people who are aware of rules and those implementing them.
Let’s hope that this is just one incident where some officials made a mistake. But we should learn lessons from it. When all attention and resources are diverted to prevent it, let this be a good reminder to all of us to not let down our guards.
The people, especially in the red zone areas, should know what course of action is taken. It will help calm them and also believe in our regulations and people who implement them.