There is no stopping the contagious Omicron virus, which is evident from the rising number of cases in the community. The numbers could be more if the mass testing continued.

There is also an acceptance among the public that the virus cannot be contained and that many would have already gotten it even if they are asymptomatic. Many who are getting tested, even without symptoms to travel, are testing positive. There are reports of entire family members testing positive without any sign or symptom.

Looking around, it seems people are ready to live with the virus. Two days after lifting the lockdown, the only sign that we are still battling the pandemic time is the facemask. There may be restrictions still in place, like capping on gatherings or not opening entertainment centres, but everything looks normal. The fact that those testing positive are not taken to isolation centres, the recovery rate and speed or buildings not being cordoned off seems to have  given the impression that  the virus is mild.

This is the new phase of the Covid-19 management and the people are living it.

It may not be a music to our ears anymore, but it is good to remind ourselves that the Omicron variant can cause severe diseases and there is a vulnerable group – the elderly, children and people with chronic illness. A young man with kidney failure problems died with Covid in Thimphu on Monday. Omicron is also affecting more children and is becoming a threat to the health care systems with more and more health workers testing positive.

With other preventive measures or protocols like social distancing thrown out of the window, wearing facemasks, it seems, is the only solution and the easy one to reduce transmission in the community.

It is scientifically proven that a face mask or any face coverings can prevent the wearer from transmitting the virus to others while also providing some protection. If what people claim are true – getting affected and not getting tested or isolated – there are many carriers of the virus, some freely roaming. Modelling of the SARS-CoV-2 disease has suggested that wearing facemasks could substantially reduce transmission.

Wearing a facemask,  even two at a time, is not difficult. It is affordable and available. If we cannot live with other measures, we should all wear facemasks and tell others to do the same.  So is washing hands with soap and using sanitizers.

The responsibility is ours. Shopkeepers shouldn’t let in customers without facemasks. Institutions and other companies should insist on these requirements.

Wearing facemasks  also has other benefits. The health ministry saw a reduction in the infection of air borne diseases since the pandemic started.

It is the pollen season in the country. Those allergic to pollen and susceptible to influenza or cold could protect themselves by wearing facemasks.