How serious are the Bhutanese when it comes to tackling COVID-19? The government has put together the country’s precious little resources together to combat the disease but the people seem to be taking it rather very lightly.

This will not help the nation keep the citizens safe.

The first (and that too, an imported case) of COVID-19 in the country flying back to the USA does not make us less vulnerable or more sheltered. The disease has come to the region and it could have a devastating impact if the neighbouring countries fail to deal effectively with it.

This has been and will continue to be Bhutan’s main concern.

Yesterday, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, held a videoconference among the heads of the SAARC governments. The leaders shared their concerns and experiences. More important, they looked at the future challenges and opportunities.

The main takeaway from the videoconference, among others, was this: the nations in the region should work together to avoid the cross-border spread of the disease. And that will require, as health advisor to the prime minister of Pakistan said, sagacity, vision and synergy of action in the region.

The regional leaders should lend full support to India’s proposal to create COVID-19 emergency fund where member countries of the SAARC can make voluntary contributions. India has already committed 10 million USD to the fund.

What is reassuring is that in the future the region could benefit immensely from a common research platform to control epidemics and other challenges.

At home, fuelled by disinformation and wanton users of social media, which is quite natural at this age and times, the Bhutanese are panicking and many have begun stocking essential items. There is really no need to hoard and stock. 

Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Ruchira Kamboj, yesterday said that even as COVID-19 concerns were spreading, there would be uninterrupted supply of goods from Indian to Bhutan.

And, no, there will never be a shutdown. Bhutanese nationals travelling and transiting to and from India can travel and transit without any trouble. India has even offered to evacuate third-country nationals stuck in Bhutan at this time through India.

However, even as the nations in the region recognise and deal with the dangers of COVID-19, success can easily be eclipsed by the failure of the citizens to look beyond self. This is the biggest danger facing the nations in the region in their fight against this novel and deadly disease.

Recently, two Bhutanese were found to have not declared, intentionally or otherwise, their travel history at an entry point. The police detained them. At such a time the country is going through, ignorance is no excuse.

Such reckless and selfish acts should be marked and dealt according to the laws of the nation because the real danger facing Bhutan today is the irresponsibility of her people.