We are at a crossroads in our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. After two years since the first case was detected in the country and several mutations of the virus, the government has decided to move into a new phase of managing the pandemic.

Between mid-April there will be no lockdowns unless absolutely necessary. The plan is not out of pressure from the people complaining of repeated lockdowns, but based on scientific developments, analysis, understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the results of our own initiatives and efforts put in so far. By April end, children between 5 and 18 years would be fully vaccinated, most would have received the booster dose and Class X and XII students would have completed their board examinations.

The priority is still life over livelihood. But in considering the impact of the pandemic on livelihood and the economy, the government will not enforce lockdown when they detect a case in the community, as it is the case now. If we can manage the virus, if we can save lives and protect the vulnerable without having to impose lockdowns, it is the best way forward.

Given the severeness of the Omicron variant, future lockdowns will depend on hospitalisation rates. If our limited health infrastructure is overwhelmed from rising cases in the community, stricter lockdowns, according to the prime minister, is the solution to control the spread.

In other words, future lockdowns will depend on us, the people. How the virus spreads depends on how we manage ourselves or behave. Positive cases from quarantine cases are manageable. It is cases in the community that is risky.  If the effort or measures put in place like lockdowns are not welcomed, the people must play a part in preventing future lockdowns.

We have heard of shouldering our Genkhu. It should go beyond washing hands or wearing masks. Citizens must play an active and participatory role as it is us who are affected by the restrictions. If we have been affected, there is more to do than following instructions. The onus is on each one of us.

The people will be aware of possible lockdowns as the government share information on available hospital beds or the status of cases and its severity. A vast majority of the people are now aware of the virus and the pandemic to the extent that current initiatives are criticized. In other words, the people are more aware to take up more responsibility. Being more responsible citizens could help see through the new phase.

This could start from our homes, neighbourhood and the community. We may have gained some confidence from the successful vaccination coverage and limiting the number of deaths. It is good to remind ourselves there are thousands of Bhutanese who are still as vulnerable to the virus and that their lives depend on how responsible we are.