Bhutan and the Covid-19 pandemic

The first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Bhutan was detected on 6 March 2020. Since then, under the enlightened leadership and personal guidance of His Majesty The King, the government has taken many steps to mitigate risks and prevent the transmission and spread of the disease in the country. In fact, His Majesty The King was already aware of the risks and challenges that Covid-19 could pose to the people and country even before the detection of the first confirmed case and was pro-actively preparing response plans and strategies.

Bhutan’s preparedness, response strategies and efforts have been lauded as many steps were taken in a proactive manner despite the fact that there was no local transmission in the country. Till date, all cases are imported cases of Bhutanese returning from abroad and these are being meticulously managed in quarantine and isolation facilities by healthcare professionals.

The whole community approach as reflected in the spontaneous outpouring of support in cash, kind and volunteerism by the people of Bhutan from all walks of life is a matter of great pride. It bears testimony to our deep-rooted values and principles of compassion, unity and service to the nation in times of need. This is our strength as a nation and people. Indeed, Covid-19 has brought the country together to combat and overcome one of the greatest challenges of our times. All this has been possible due to the outstanding leadership and steadfast resolve of His Majesty The King who continues to remain at the forefront of all endeavours in these difficult times.

The swift and deliberate manner with which Bhutan acted to prepare and respond while countries in the region and beyond were overwhelmed by the pandemic is noteworthy, particularly given our constraints and limited resources. Today, His Majesty remains at the helm of all efforts and regularly travels the length and breadth of the country to take stock of our preparedness and response mechanisms and to institute new measures in keeping with the rapidly evolving situation. Among others, His Majesty has repeatedly emphasized the imperative to remain vigilant at all times and not become complacent and to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

His Majesty’s primary concern is to protect the well-being and welfare of the people and country and towards this end, His Majesty has been actively engaged in spearheading relief measures. A National Resilience Fund has been established on Royal Command to provide relief to those who lost their livelihoods or sources of income and to help businesses affected by the pandemic to sustain their operations. Among others, people who are unemployed and have lost their source of income have been provided monthly subsistence allowances as kidu.

Similarly, deferment of loan and waiver of interest pursuant to Royal Command has come as a huge relief for the people of Bhutan.  Interests on loans were initially waived for three months from April-June 2020. In addition, the waiver of interest has been extended for another three months till September 2020. This will be followed by a partial interest waiver (50%) for six additional months from October 2020 to March 2021. Vitamin pills and face masks have been distributed on Royal Command as a preventive measure to senior citizens and people with underlying conditions who are more vulnerable. Such kind of care, compassion and support from the highest level is unprecedented and we are all truly blessed and fortunate.

The people of Bhutan owe a huge debt of gratitude to His Majesty The King for his selfless service and for being the beacon of hope in these very difficult and uncertain times. Whatever we have achieved thus far in preventing the spread of the disease in Bhutan is due to the wise counsel and leadership of His Majesty The King.

Likewise, the Zhung Dratshang led by His Holiness The Je Khenpo is engaged in performing special prayers and kurims and invoking Sangaymenlha and other protecting deities to prevent spread of pandemic and keep our country safe. We also remain immensely grateful to His Holiness The Je Khenpo and the Zhung Dratshang.

The government under the leadership of the Prime Minister also deserves our deep appreciation and gratitude. In particular, we specially acknowledge the hard work being done by Health Ministry and healthcare professionals, frontline workers, armed forces, De-Suups, volunteers and all other agencies including the Covid-19 Task Force to prevent the importation and spread of Covid-19.

Going forward, what is important and imperative is for each and every citizen to be responsible by supporting the efforts of the Royal Government to prevent local/community transmission. We must diligently comply with all Notifications and Advisories issued by the government without fail and take all precautions.

As a senior citizen, I urge and appeal to all Bhutanese to be responsible and comply with health advisories such as wearing face masks, washing hands frequently and physical distancing. The Druk Trace App is an extremely important tool for contact tracing and must be used whenever visiting any public place. As the development of a vaccine remains uncertain, the age-old adage, “prevention and better than cure” must be the order of the day.

We all have a solemn responsibility, individually and collectively, to prevent the transmission and spread of Covid-19 in Bhutan. As we adapt to the “new normal” we cannot afford to become complacent, irresponsible or reckless. We must continue to work together with steadfast resolve and unity of purpose to protect our communities and our nation and to fulfill the vision of our beloved King of a strong, secure and happy nation. I am confident that we will be able to overcome this challenge by working together as members of one family.

Pelden Drukpa Gyalo!

 

Contributed by,

Chenkyab Dorji

Thimphu

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