Most Bhutanese woke up early yesterday to the unpleasant news of a nationwide lockdown. Our worst fear has come true.
We have a case in the community although it started as an imported case. The woman had, since completing the quarantine period, been to three dzongkhags before she tested positive. A lockdown was necessary.
All this while, we knew it (a case in the community) was coming. We had been saying it is a matter of when, not if. It is here. It may have caused inconveniences as the announcement came without warning. During times of a pandemic, some decisions have to be taken instantly for the general good. A lockdown is the solution.
The danger is clear. Without a lockdown, it would be difficult to contain the spread of the virus. Those who came into direct or indirect contact with the woman would have reached the nooks and corners of the country making it worse. The lockdown is not a punishment.
Our preparedness to handle a community transmission was put to test. We passed although there were some issues of coordination. By 4 am, when Kuensel went out to observe the preparation, traffic police and De-Suups had already been deployed. Vehicles were stopped and people were asked to return home. Most didn’t know what was happening but cooperated when explained.
A bigger test was on the preparedness of the public. Besides a few complaints about not being able to reach their destinations, most cooperated. The people, inspired by His Majesty The King’s leadership and relentless efforts, most of the time walking along the southern borders, adhered strictly to the lockdown rules.
By late afternoon, everybody was sharing crucial information that helped in calming down fellow citizens. Contact numbers and important information, lockdown guidelines were being shared thousand times on social media. Authorities were guiding confused people. Essentials were dropped, emergencies were met and a few even offered help – simple things like offering their washrooms and house to rest for those out in the field.
It reminded us how the first Covid-19 case brought us together. The few complaints were overshadowed by the outpour of support and appreciation to those on the frontline. Our coming together since March 6 was instrumental in the success we had so far.
We can contain the virus from spreading by coming together again. The advice is simple – stay home. Staying home will enable the government to combat the spread of the disease in the shortest possible time. In other words, the lockdown will not last long if we cooperate.
As of late yesterday evening, the health ministry has managed to trace nearly 300 people. Most tested negative. It is a good sign. The success of containing the virus equally lies in the hands of the people. Staying home, being honest and reporting to health authorities of what we know will save time and money, even the inconvenience of total lockdown.
From experience, we have learnt that Bhutanese come together in times of disasters. Not being able to control the virus would be the biggest disaster. The call is to each Bhutanese. The government is seeking help and they are not asking much. All we have to do is stay home and be honest with our travel history. It will save the life of a family member, a friend, a colleague and a national disaster.