Detection of community transmission has led to panic throughout Bhutan. It is a crucial time for us as a nation. Our triumph over the pandemic is still possible, but we must keep our focus, work together, and shoulder equal responsibility.

Numerous countries have enforced lockdown for months now. Economies are in recessions, and unemployment is growing. In Bhutan, Covid-19 related complications have handled well so far.

With sudden discovery of positive cases and the confirmation of local transmission, the people are worried. This is a natural response. However, it is important to see and accept that our current predicament was just a postponement of the inevitable.

Evidence suggest that community transmission is bound to happen. We are a small country and our societies are interlinked.

What we can control is the rate of transmission by taking on collective responsibility and continue our contribution to the national effort against Covid-19.

Lockdown, isolation or social distancing can be very challenging for many. With the rise in the daily cases, it can look and sound terrifying. In the dzongkhags, for example, visit to flu clinics have decreased. That, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t or cannot be infections.

We have to keep the bigger picture in mind. Our personal struggles and fears are minuscule in comparison to the difficulties facing our small country. The fact is the virus can multiply exponentially. A single person’s hesitation to go for test can have detrimental consequences. We would be left to confront a bigger instance of community tramission og virus.

My personal experience

I was the second Bhutanese to test positive in March. Sensationalisation by international media was terrifying and sometimes because wrong information can be reported unwittingly. It happened to me and I had to deal with it alone.

The good thing is that we in Bhutan have  excellent healthcare system. And that means even if we are infected we have  the best hands and care.

What I can say is that without underlying health conditions and a standard immune system, you will recover in no time. In fact, the care we get helps develop antibodies that will prevent you from contracting the virus again in the near future.

Before I tested positive, I convinced myself that being young somehow would make me immune to the virus. But the fact is Covid-19 does not select some age groups as targets. You may be young but that is no guarantee that you will not be infected by the Covid-19 virus.

Contributing to the national effort means undertaking responsibility at an individual level. Apart from testing there are several other ways we can cooperate. Personally, one of the biggest challenges I faced was societal stigmatisation even after I tested negative several times and completed mandatory de-isolation for two weeks.

Once you test negative, there is little to no chance that you could be infected. Harassment of positive patients has also been reported recently, which is helped by the spread of fake news on social media. The result is, by engaging in the development of false information, one creates disharmony, especially for the individual in question and their family. For instance, after I went to town for the first time after I tested negative, I received several phone calls asking me to continue staying home because it made people “uncomfortable”.

We cannot afford to create divisions within society in times of a pandemic. Evidence from past pandemics and studies from the coronavirus experience has also shown the negative effects of stigmatisation and harassment on psychological well-being through induction of distress, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. If left unchecked, it could lead to the growth of a crisis in itself.

During my time at the hospital, staying in virtual contact with my family and friends kept me occupied for most hours, making isolation so much easier. In addition, messages on social media from strangers helped me calm down. They would convey their prayers and good wishes and assure me that I was constantly in their thoughts. If you know someone who tested positive, reach out to him or her. A small message, a meme, a funny video, can do wonders to improve one’s mental health.

While we are in the comfort of our homes, our fellow countrymen are working relentlessly on the frontlines. Another responsibility we can undertake as individuals is being productive in lockdown, whether you’re a civil servant or a businessperson working remotely. As students, taking classes online, our priority right now, may just be to pass finals, but we are preparing ourselves to become constructive members of society.

The discovery of local cases should be a wake-up call to all the citizens. We have already spent an enormous amount of money to fight coronavirus. If we are not cautious and fail to take collective action, it will lengthen the nationwide lockdown which prove to be very costly.

His Majesty The King has worked tirelessly to ensure our comfort and safety in the face of this pandemic. Think of your responsibility as a way of giving back. We have shown that together we can  defeat Covid-19 pandemic.

His Majesty The King in his address to the nation on the 113th National Day said: “There is nothing that us Bhutanese cannot achieve. Once we set our minds to doing something, we should resolutely march forward on the decided path irrespective of whether the sky falls, the ground beneath collapses, the sky and the earth collide, or one’s head catches fire. As we march forward on this chosen path, there will naturally be obstacles and privations, but they must be overcome with determination, skillfulness, and resourcefulness.”

Let’s cooperate, understand the value in taking individual responsibility, and continue to fight this pandemic.

Contributed by  Lhachi Selden

 Lhachi Selden is the second Bhutanese to test positive for coronovirus. She has recovered fully  and lives in