Bhutan is doing well in the face of COVID-19 threat. There are fears, there is even panic. This is natural.
What is not natural is the dark pictures that the people have begun painting about the disease and nation’s preparedness.
Schools are now being asked to remain closed because gathering of a large number of people could be risky. The lone COVID-19 positive case in the country has flown out. The people—28 of them who had interactions with him, in varying degrees—have all tested negative.
What this means is Bhutan has no COVID-19 positive case as yet. Efforts are being made to keep it this way.
But let us look beyond. The world is shutting down. The important question that we must ask is whether the countries in the region and beyond are bolstering their efforts like Bhutan has and continues to, minute by minute.
Bhutan’s priorities are changing and, will continue to change, because we are reacting to the threat that is coming closer to home. Because we do not have a single COVID-19 case in the country today, precaution and prevention are still our best weapons.
Media, particularly social media, are failing the nation. Inane and questions born from ignorance are only helping spread the fear. There are those who will only consider the country’s economic stats when what the entire country really needs today, this hour, is a clear focus to keep the pandemic away.
Arrangements are being made. If the Bhutanese living across the border need home, the government has a plan for safe and secure homes for all. The digitalisation of education has not taken off but efforts are being made to not interrupt the education of thousands of children in the country.
Bhutan’s response, the way we are standing up to the challenge, is not because we are in dire straits. The country is preparing for the worst-case scenario because regions and nations are failing to keep the epidemic at bay.
What we must know is that South Asia is better prepared than the rest of the world.
The scourge waiting to come to Bhutan and the region is, therefore, a small problem. Hoarding and stocking can be devastating.
Looking beyond is important, yes, but having the courage to look in is by far more important. Now comes the real challenge—to keep it this way.
What we must know is that the government can do only so much. A large number of Bhutanese are returning home from abroad. The number of those under quarantine will only increase in the days to come. What this means is that Bhutan has put stringent measures in place to stop the disease from entering the country.
However, so much depends on the people and their individual actions. Every one of us will be affected somehow or the other but, fortunately, we have so far been able to work together to keep our nation and people safe.
There is no space for selfish acts and questions. That’s how we should carry on. We can do that, each individually, by just washing our hands, maintaining sanitation and hygiene, and not flustering unnecessarily.