The small shop faces a “red” building. The police crime scene tape indicates that there are either positive cases or some recovering from the virus.  For the residents of the building where the shop is located and those visiting it from nearby areas,  the shop serves as a meeting place, even if briefly.

This is a scene at one shop in the capital city. It is the same all over, says many. With the capital’s residents getting used to reports of new cases including from the community, there is a laxity of discipline. And this is dangerous with the government planning to let people decide future lockdowns from mid-April.

Future lockdowns will depend not on the number of cases, but on how overwhelmed our health infrastructures would be. Uncontrolled spread of the virus will happen when we let down the guards. The simple measures like wearing a face mask and not crowding would still be the best way to prevent the spread. That the Omicron is mild and does not result in hospitalisation is only partially true. There is a huge vulnerable group. Those with the burden of age and underlying medical conditions still remain vulnerable. The number is huge- more than 65,000 are above the age of 65 years.

Should there be another outbreak without lockdown, there are not enough  hospital beds to accommodate even half the number of the vulnerable group. If they need intensive care, we are in trouble. This would mean more lockdowns.

The National Task Force is drawing up a strategy. Many are expecting the current lockdown to be relaxed from Saturday. A leaked meeting note has excited people not knowing that we are still reporting cases from the community. There were 15 from the community in Thimphu and 75 in Phuentsholing. The risk is still there.

Nobody likes lockdowns. Everything is affected. The economy shrunk by 1.4 percent during the current lockdown considered moderate. The Prime Minister had said that future lockdowns will be “military styled” lockdowns meaning it will be strict if the country  reaches the threshold of bed occupancy at the Covid-19 isolation ward or if there were the emergence of lethal variants.

The government is not washing their hands off unlike many think. It is a way of making the citizens responsible. In this pandemic, citizens could play a major role in deciding our fate, especially how we behave with an invisible and infectious variant of the SARS- CoV -2.

If we still need policing –  De-suups to control our movement, tell us to stay home, avoid crowding or use the Druktrace App- we have not learnt anything or are not ready at all for the new strategy the government is working on to implement from April.

The priority is still not losing lives to Covid-19. The effort put in so far has worked. The seven deaths were people who died with Covid-19, not because of Covid-19. As we look forward to the next strategy in managing the virus, the ground realty today is not encouraging. Ironically, it is in the urban towns where the so-called educated or the well-aware resides. The chiwogs and the gewogs are far better in managing and getting the cooperation of the people.