Lockdown is a difficult experience for everybody, especially when service delivery is in question. Efficient service delivery is more important than easing the lockdown.
The lockdown in Phuentsholing has been eased; the town has been under lockdown for 18 days. Now that gradual or phase-wise easing has begun, the question is on what premise.
What we know is that now the residents of Phuentsholing will be allowed to move around within their respective zones with movement pass; only identified retail outlets such as grocery, pharmacy, and beverages will be allowed to open from 8am to 7pm.
Also, the movement of emergency services will be allowed—health services and the movement of utility, emergency and authorised vehicles. Cremation rites and rituals can be held with not more than 10 family members in attendance.
But if the residents of the town do not have access to vital services such as home delivery of goods and services they need, there will be frustrations. When frustrations blow out, people begin to sidestep the rules. That’s the bigger danger facing us today.
Mutation of the Covid-19 virus has happened—look at the infection and death toll in the neighbouring countries; there will be more strains and variants in the coming days. The question is: do we have a more resilient plan?
Strict quarantine system and robust health advisories have been our advantage until now. But will they protect us from the new strains and variants of the virus?
This is the question that should give birth to a new debate: are we doing enough in the right way? Lockdown can be torturous, but opening the doors to more infections has the potential to defeat all the efforts we have thus far made to keep the virus at bay.
The residents of the town are becoming more vocal because they feel that something is wrong. Education and awareness besides, there should be a credible investigation as to how the infection hit the town. We have heard next to nothing about this.
Because Phuentsholing is closer to West Bengal towns where the coronavirus infections and death toll have been rising, the residents of the town are raising their concerns. They should. But, more important, their voices should be heard.
As uncomfortable as it is for the town residents, lifting the lockdown in Phuentsholing could be dangerous. Positive cases are growing.
Better would be to improve the service delivery system in a way that every resident of the town has easy access to the services that he or she requires. Lockdown is not about time; it’s about the safety of the people.