To quote a proverb from the English speaking world: “Every cloud has a silver lining”. Such wisdom, of course, applies to all aspects of life.
The cloud today is COVID-19. The silver lining? It’s the lessons that we are (hopefully) learning. The confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in the country has shocked us into some panic, some discussion, and also some introspection. So what have we learnt?
A section of the Bhutanese population responded with fear, panic, and negativity as soon as the first COVID-19 case was confirmed. Besides the tendency to hoard essentials, some Bhutanese shared derogatory comments against tourists and the tourism industry workers on social media. This impulsive and negative reaction was exactly what we do not want.
The tone changed when the Prime Minister announced that the government was on top of all arrangements, under the supervision of none other than His Majesty The King. Indeed, the government’s response team moved at a record speed, treating and isolating the affected American tourist and his travel companions, tracking and testing all those who he came into contact with.
Prime Minister, Dr. Lotay Tshering, Health Minister, Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, and the health team worked round the clock and held a press conference a day after the confirmation to update the Bhutanese people. In his regular tweets, the Prime minister also informed us that His Majesty The King had advised them to take care of this unfortunate traveler who was far away from home and had come to Bhutan because he obviously thought well of Bhutan.
This was not just Royal advice. It was a powerful reminder of the Buddhist teaching of compassion. Our panic-stricken minds were reminded that we have the responsibility to be humane. And it was particularly telling that such a counsel came at a time when we were seeing ugly prejudice and racist behavior in several societies.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us the dark side of human behavior with even world leaders often lost and sometimes extracting political mileage from a distress of national and global proportions. It also showed us how disorganized and unprepared so called developed countries are for such calamities.
The silver lining here was the way Bhutan moved to deal with the situation. That COVID-19 would come into the country was inevitable, given the extremely infections nature of the disease and the unrestrained movement of the international community.
What was important was that our society united and worked as a team to deal with the situation.
It is an ironic observation to make but the potentially tragic incident had its positive impact. After the initial shock, it brought out the best in us.