Coronavirus at the doorstep. What are we doing?

We now know a lot more about coronavirus. Each new day we are discovering something new about the disease. What this indicates is that the governments, medical experts and scientists are working together to find a solution to a problem that is new and potentially very dangerous.

Coronavirus, an outbreak of pneumonia-like illness that was first reported in Wuhan, China is now spreading not only fast but also alarmingly. Chinese officials announcing new measures to contain disease, including wildlife trade ban and travel suspensions. The real danger facing us today is that the disease has arrived at our doorstep. Nepal and Bangladesh have already reported cases of the disease. India is increasingly tackling with suspect cases.

The threat so has to be taken very seriously. Surveillance systems are proving inadequate the world over. We are yet to understand how the disease can spread. First we were told it could have come from bats. Then it was snakes. Now it is fresh or warm meat. We are also told that human-to-human transmission is possible. What we know is that we do not know enough yet about the complexity of the disease entirely.

Bhutan has responded swiftly but we need to be still very careful and vigilant. We already have infrared fever scanning system at Paro International Airport. Surveillance at every point of entry should  be beefed up. But that is not enough. The people need to be told how to prepare or to keep themselves at bay from the disease. This is not happening and every hour lost in such a situation is dangerous.

In the more interconnected world today, not being proactive will be costly. We are facing multiple risks today because this is the time when Bhutanese go to Nepal and India for pilgrimage and vacations. Many do not seem to have clear knowledge of the disease.  How countries and regions are responding to the disease can be helpful to Bhutan even though that will barely be enough.

Health ministry has advised people to refrain from travelling to the affected placed unless it is totally unavoidable. At the same time, how are we monitoring the tourists visiting the country at this time? The current surveillance system is visibly too weak. Temperature check is just one of the many monitoring systems we could have.

The disease outbreak has become such a global concern that the head of the WHO is visiting China to fully understand the devastating capacity of the disease.  Perhaps the world leaders have already missed the issues facing the humanity like climate change and disease outbreaks that can that can do a whole lot more damage to the world than arms race that they are focusing on. But there is still hope. Leadership must rise in other tones if diplomacy of the 21st century is not working. Arms race is by much lesser problem than common danger facing the health of human habitat today. Let it be a lesson. But the Bhutanese people want it from the government clearly, now, how it is protecting its people from such a dangerous global threat!

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