There is call to come together in our fight against the threat of the new coronavirus. The support has been widespread with Bhutanese involving in it in one way or another.
It will exactly be a month this Saturday since we first detected the first case of Covid-19 in the country. The reaction, preparedness and the continued effort to save Bhutanese have enabled us to manage the threat.
Like anywhere in the world, the direct impact is on the economy as lockdown and shutting borders slow down economy. The government is in the final stages of readying an economic stimulus plan. There are surveys being conducted and plans made to help those affected by the impact on the economy.
Apart from those in the private sector, especially the service and trading sector, the salaried group is cushioned. The expectation was that the government would be overwhelmed by requests of subsidies, exemptions and handouts.
Surprisingly, the movement is to support the government. From vegetables to house rent waivers, personal protection equipment and cash in the millions, the support has been varied and widespread. This week alone, big and small business houses in the country contributed millions to the Covid-19 Response Fund and to His Majesty’s Kidu Fund for Covid-19.
Individuals, groups, organisation and even religious institutions have come together to support the country’s effort to keep its people safe. The hotel industry that was hit first and hardest is offering their property to be used as quarantine facilities. Farmers are collecting rice and cereals to supply to the hotels to feed those in quarantine.
His Majesty The King, leading on the frontline, has set the priority. His Majesty had said that the health and safety of the people of Bhutan is of the greatest priority, and as such, every measure necessary to safeguard the people is put in place.
The vision is clear and the Bhutanese have understood it. The message is clearer- that the people want to be a part in our fight against Covid-19. We cannot conduct concerts or other fund raising events because gathering is discouraged. Therefore, it is left to individuals or groups or organisations. And everybody is coming forward.
One common occurrence during times like this is the risk of over zealous supporters competing with each other in their contributions. We should not make people reluctant volunteers. There are some complaining of forced contributions and cuts from salaries. This should be discouraged. Contributions, whether rice or cash, should come from the heart, not imposed.
At the individual level, the biggest contribution is listening to authorities that are trying to prevent an outbreak in the country. Observing social distancing, avoiding gathering in groups or as simple as washing hands with soap and clean water is seen as no lesser than million ngultrum contribution.
We have four confirmed Covid-19 cases, but not one is from community infection, which is a bigger threat. The biggest contribution from each Bhutanese would be preventing a mass community infection. The risk is real. Cases in the neighbouring Indian states are on the rise everyday. The WHO has warned of mass community infection in our region.
Preventing this in Bhutan would be the greatest contribution at all levels.