The threat is ever-present but we have largely succeeded in keeping the Covid-19 pandemic at a distance. What we must now know is that the challenge facing Bhutan is not just the disease; keeping the citizens inside the borders is becoming a bigger problem by the day.
If there is a new positive case in the country tomorrow, it will not be because of the failure of the government and all the sectors working round the clock to prevent the spread of the pandemic to keep the country and the people safe. Irresponsible people who with pathetic impudence are flouting the rules ought to the blame.
Border lockdown is critically important because of the mode and rate of transmission. It has been almost a month since we put a hold on international border crossing to prevent the importation and spread of Covid-19 in the country, but people continue to ignore government notifications that restrict international border crossing. This poses a serious risk of the disease spreading in the country.
When everything is well taken care of by the government from the supply of essential items to education to interest waiver on loans to sizeable financial assistance to those who are directly affected, why some Bhutanese continue to sneak in and out of the borders clandestinely can be explained only by who they really are—selfish opportunists who are ready to throw a spanner on the His Majesty The King and the government’s effort to keep the Bhutan and Bhutanese safe.
We have bolstered our vigilance along the porous borders but the people sneak in and out of the borders continue to remain our biggest threat today. This side of the border, to minimise the risk of community transmission given the increasing number of people completing the 21-day quarantine period and all businesses and shops must close by 7pm and people visiting public spaces or roaming in groups of three or more are now being scrutinised by law enforcers.
As His Majesty The King said recently, “The reckless action of a single person who clandestinely crosses the border for trade, or to meet acquaintances, or to bring someone to Bhutan, risks spreading the coronavirus in their community and in the country. It will completely undermine all our national efforts. Therefore, to be 100 percent successful in our fight against the coronavirus, it will require the unstinted cooperation of each and every person.”
Pandemic besides, people who engage in illegal businesses are our biggest threat today. In a span of less than a week, the police intercepted two drug trafficking cases. The standing rule says that the people who violate the regulations will be dealt with seriously. This should happen.
And, so, if we are to succeed in preventing local transmission, “we can neither be complacent, nor can we let our guard down.”