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On the foot of mounting pressure to relax restrictions and cautious attempts at reopening border closure, experts are warning against a hasty move, suggesting that we wait until after winter before taking any major decision. 

Bhutan has dealt with the Covid-19 infections very well. Thanks to stringent measures and protocols in place, positive cases are few and far between. In fact, for a very long while now we have not had any Covid-19 positive case.

We know why and from where the pressure to reopen is coming from. There is the general sense of fatigue and we have completed successful vaccination campaigns. According to the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Team (NI-TAG), Bhutan has already vaccinated more than 76 percent of the eligible population.

It is being argued from some quarters that vaccination coverage of more than 70 percent should be able to bring disruption in the transmission of the virus. Threats facing us may be “minimal” at present but that does not give us an excuse to open up without considering repercussions.

As one expert cautioned, it is “too early” to lift all the restrictions without considering the risk the pandemic continues to pose to the global community.

“Covid-19 is still a pandemic and it continues to kill people across the world. While we have managed to contain it effectively so far, it doesn’t mean we are safe from the virus,” he said.

What needs bearing in mind is that winter is flu season in the northern hemisphere, an ideal condition for the influenza virus to transmit. Because the SARS-CoV-2 virus is also a type of influenza virus, we may be just waiting to be waylaid by a new wave of transmission, potentially a more dangerous variant.

For Bhutan, opening the borders means throwing ourselves open to transmission risks from India where the season of festivals and large gatherings is at its peak. With the recent rise in the number of positive cases, Assam and West Bengal remain among the major Covid-19 hotspots in India.

What we must know, above all, is that vaccination does not fully protect us from the virus. It only boosts our immunity. That means protocols and measures such as mask requirement, physical distancing and hand hygiene, among others, should be in place.

Knowing that the only source of infection and transmission is from abroad, reckless and rushed decision to reopen can be very costly. Covid-19 is still a major threat facing us today. Beefing up the efforts to protect ourselves from the virus should be given extra importance.

More importantly, we should not let complacency be the order of the day.

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