Let’s not get carried away

With more than 472,000 people vaccinated with the first dose, the campaign had been successful with about 93 percent of the population inoculated. More will be vaccinated even as we wait for the second dose. It is an achievement that made many talk.

But it is good to remind ourselves that it is far from over. The first dose is not enough to protect us against the virus. It should not by any means give us the false hope that we are safe. The achievement from the vaccination drive could make our people believe that we are safe. What is important to understand is that we are not safe until everybody is.

Even as we wait for the second dose, a new wave of Covid-19 is ravaging neighbouring India. Schools are getting shut, curfews and new restrictions are imposed in many cities including night lockdowns as many states are seeing record daily cases. It is the highest daily surge since the pandemic. Bangladesh is enforcing another seven-day lockdown with stricter rules from next week to prevent the pandemic causing a disaster.

As of now, the few increases in the number of positive cases at home is from quarantine centres. That doesn’t mean we are safe. We will be committing a big mistake in taking refuge in the first round of vaccination. If we look around, this is what is exactly happening. Prevention measures like wearing masks, social distancing, using tracing Apps are quickly forgotten. The dry hand washing stations, sanitizer bottles and fading Druk Trace QR codes seen everywhere proves complacency setting in.

The surge in cases in the region is due to flouting the same safety rules. Besides, it is scientifically proven that public safety measures like wearing a mask, physical distance are still the best measures, with or without getting vaccinated.

We are vulnerable. The surging case in the region means it is a matter of time that we see a new wave. The porous border makes us more vulnerable. One case in the community would spell disaster. Our memories are short, but we can recall how the two lockdowns caused immense inconveniences. It disrupted lives and livelihood. Many of us are still reeling from the impact of the two lockdowns last year.

Everybody wants a normal life. Children have to attend school; farmers have to return to work and businesses must go on. Tiny Bhutan cannot afford another lockdown.  The good thing is that it is in our hands. We may not return to the pre-Covid days, but things are improving and we should try to prevent another lockdown. This is likely to happen if we let our guards down.

And an outbreak now will be different. In India, where most of our assistance comes from, hospitals are running out of oxygen cylinders, beds and even vaccines. Some states are overwhelmed with bodies where the bereaved wait for eight to 10 hours with a token to cremate their loved ones. Bhutan cannot afford this. What we can afford is being cautious and by not letting our guards down.

Relaxation should be determined by hard data and scientific evidence and not by boosterish hope from the first round of vaccination. All evidences are against us that we are all still at risk.

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