Phuentsholing residents are rejoicing the absence of Covid-19 cases from their localities and hoping that the situation improves. It has been more than a week since the last positive case.
This has come after a lot of sacrifices and hard work on the part of many including the task force, front line workers and most of all the residents, themselves.
Despite the reassuring success in containing the virus in the town, villagers of Sampheling and Phuentsholing gewogs still remain on guard.
While both gewogs are located along the porous international border and in close proximity to Phuentsholing town, the gewogs successfully kept the virus away. While neighbouring Phuentsholing reported 630 positive cases, the two gewogs reported not a single positive case.
In Sampheling gewog, each household of six villages along the border has signed undertakings to follow the Covid-19 safety measures. The head of the family is responsible for the family.
Phuentsholing gewog has village volunteers, residents who help in surveillance and work with front line workers at the points of entry. They have been instrumental in keeping their community safe despite a l large group of people moving between the town and the gewog.
The residents attribute their success to being responsible for their own safety and preemptive measures that the local administrations initiated.
Their success echoes the message of the coronation address of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo: “A little effort on your part will be as much more effective than a great deal of effort on the part of the government.”.
We need to drive this message through and through especially because the government or the State cannot afford to be bogged down with the minute issues that the community level. Also because the complacency setting in among the public can herald dangerous consequences.
For instance, the Zhemgang dzongkhag Covid-19 task force recently fined some offices, institutes and individuals for not complying with Covid-19 safety protocols. People were caught without face masks and the establishments without proper handwashing facilities.
This behaviour relates to the Peltzman effect. We become more careful when we sense greater risk and less careful if we feel more protected. That is natural and being human.
While this behaviour is dangerous for the general public, this can be disastrous for health care workers who are in contact with Covid 19 patients every day.
The Covid-19 committees need to monitor compliance strictly and report to the respective task forces in case of any issues. For that, a reporting system can suffice. We also need more inspection for compliance in shops, offices and other establishments to ensure compliance.
It is crucial to vaccinate the majority but it is also equally important to be aware of the Peltzman effect. We need to be on guard now and even beyond herd immunity.