Brighter side of the pandemic

Streets, offices, businesses all came to life with the third phase of unlocking coming into effect yesterday. We could literally hear the sigh of relief as people returned to work and resumed “normal” life.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the measures it forced left all our plans distraught. It disrupted businesses and life. It will take a long time to shake off the impact. However, there is a bright side, which if we reflect, is coming out of a pandemic.

The 21-day lockdown has been a catalyst in driving many organisations, government or corporate, to rethink and send them to the drawing board to strategise or come with new and innovative ways in managing challenges posed by the pandemic. For many it came as an enlightening experience, as it forced us to tackle sudden challenges, starting from decision-making to workforce productivity or operations.

We cannot avoid a pandemic, but it certainly taught us to be resilient and agile when faced with a crisis situation. Crisis management, for sure, would be a subject we would be talking about for a long time.

A lot of conventional systems would change. Working for Bhutanese means sitting on a table in an office. A lot of the decisions are made from home or using technology which enabled people to meet even during the lockdown. A lot will remain and be a part of our new working culture.

Meanwhile, the pandemic also enabled us to enforce a lot of rules or new ideas that were resisted before Covid-19 came. The national referral hospital in Thimphu, for instance, had been trying to enforce the one-patient-one-attendant rule for years. It became possible during the pandemic. A big challenge for those managing the hospital was overcrowding. This was not because of patients, but visitors carrying eggs, energy drinks or frozen chicken to hospital wards.

Doctors at the hospital say that the self-referral trend overwhelms the hospital. During the lockdown people made best use of the basic health units or the dzongkhag hospitals.  This should be the normal now.

Doctors prioritising patients referred from BHUs, dzongkhags or insisting on referral letters could discourage self-referrals. At the same time, adequate facilities in the capital city are necessary to screen patients. A good example is the flu clinics that prevented people from visiting the referral hospital. Another effective way would be people stopping to drop names and use influence when visiting the hospital.

Beyond the hospital, the thromde office managed to get rid of the extension that blocked the footpath at the lower market. The thromde tried it before. The risk of crowding convinced the vendors to clear the area. They should not come back. With footpaths blocked by vendors, it is risky for shoppers as they compete with vehicles for the little space at the busy market.

As we learn to live with the pandemic, there surely will be several brighter sides to look into.

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