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The emergence of Covid-19 cases in the highlands of Merak and Sakteng and remote villages of Lauri in Samdrupjongkhar raises many questions. The virus is complex, but its transmission is mainly through people.

We are yet to establish how the virus spread in rural communities. Health officials claim their priority as of now is to control and manage the outbreak efficiently and not finding the source of the outbreak. But people want to know how it happened. Finding the source is important to learn lessons and plug loopholes, if there are any. Predicting how and when the virus will enter the country will not be possible.  We can definitely find out what happened.

The cases emerged at a time when we were all constantly reminded not to let our guards down. We have been reminded to remain vigilant. Have we failed to convince our rural populace of the dangers of the pandemic? Did they come in contact with people of neighbouring states, where the situation is worsening and the number of cases spiking?

We share a long and porous border and although borders are sealed, guarding every point of entry is difficult. Educating and creating awareness can solve some problem. Empowering the local leaders and giving them the responsibility of community vigilance would help.

The emergence of the cases in the rural areas revealed how places, which are least expected to have an outbreak, face different challenges. It exposes our vulnerability and susceptibility as a developing country with limited accessibility.

It exposed our helplessness when it took days for health officials to reach remote areas in Khashateng and Phajo Goenpa to determine the extent of the outbreak. Residents of other remote villages in Lauri are still waiting for health officials to check them. Most of them claim they suffered from severe flu-like symptoms.

The virus is claiming lives in unprecedented number in the region and beyond.  The Prime Minister has already cautioned we will be wiped out if we do not contain the virus. Without resources and medical expertise, the second wave would be catastrophic.

The fight against the pandemic is still on. We have a long way to go. It is a must to acknowledge our shortcomings and weaknesses and work towards addressing them.

With many elderly citizens in rural homes, we have a group that is at a higher risk in the villages.

Let us educate and involve our rural residents in the fight against the pandemic. The experiences in Merak, Sakteng and Lauri shows us rural places are equally vulnerable like the crowded urban areas.

The primary duty of every citizen now is to follow the Covid-19 protocols strictly.

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