Like  birds let out from under the tsew. This old Bhutanese phrase is so apt for what is going around in the capital city hours after the government announced the relaxation after the 28-day lockdown.

The phrase, bja tsew woley sho show zum loosely translates to directionless birds let out after keeping them long under a basket. The capital’s residents are as headless as the proverbial birds. And going by how people are gathering, rushing and forgetting that there is a virus that is yet to be tamed, another lockdown is likely to follow soon.

The lockdown was lifted at 5am yesterday. It came as a huge relief to many even if some with guaranteed income wished otherwise. As if the capital’s residents had never come out of their house for 28 days  straight, they came out in ones and twos, in groups and thronged every little space that provided the slightest reason. The shops, the bars, the roads all look normal as if we never had a lockdown or an outbreak.

By noon, the streets were crowded and the traffic had returned to normal – rush and congestion. Shops can open, vehicle movements are allowed –  in short, we will be returning to normal lives. How long it will last will depend on how we behave. 

There are still some restrictions, particularly on entertainment centres. The capital city, meanwhile, is not free of the virus. There are still cases being reported and about 30 buildings are in the ‘red’ category meaning there are positive cases or people active with the virus. Testing is still going on even with the restrictions lifted. All this means that we are not safe. 

The lockdown, besides the inconveniences, has hampered livelihoods, businesses and the economy at large. The wish on every mind is to return to normal lives so that we can earn a livelihood, make profits and let governance govern. The ignorance is that we are not playing our part to let that happen. In a pandemic, ignorance is not an excuse. For us, we know what can help or force a lockdown. 

As we return to work today hoping for a new beginning, the chances of another lockdown depends on us – as civil servants, corporate employees, private sector employees, farmers or a daily wage earner. Our laxity or seriousness will determine another lockdown or living with Covid. There will be positive cases. However, if we can restrict that to quarantine centres or in red zones, we will see life return to normal. 

What we have to remember even as we return to work is that the whole country is not safe. Phuentsholing is seeing a daily surge in cases- whether from quarantine centres or the community. A few dzongkhags are still considered as high risk areas. It takes only one case to spread the virus. And with a zero Covid policy, it will not be long before another lockdown is imposed because of our behaviour.

How we move forward from this lockdown depends entirely on how we co-operate, behave and play our small part. Those found to be breaching Covid protocols will be booked charged for Breach of Public Order and Tranquillity under section 448 of the Penal Code of Bhutan. We can avoid that by being cautious and being responsible citizens.