Living with the virus is not an option for the government, according to the Prime Minister. Imposing restrictions, it seems, is the government’s way to get out of the current pandemic. In other words, despite the exploding cases of the Omicron variant, lockdown and preventive measures are the ways to “eliminate” the virus from society.

Eliminating the virus, especially the highly infectious Omicron, is a challenge everywhere. We need not look far. In the north, even with the most stringent rules, the detection of Omicron in many cities in China, shows how difficult it is to maintain a zero Covid policy. It is seen as unsustainable and unnecessary. In the south, even with thousands of daily cases, schools are re-opening, election rallies are held and lockdowns are being lifted.

At home, we detected 141 cases in just one day: yesterday. While the consolation may be that majority are from quarantine facilities or imported, cases in the community are rising, too. Our worst fear was a case in the community. We have now 801 altogether and rising even with lockdowns.

It is an uphill task both for the government and those on the frontline. We have always prioritised life over livelihoods in this pandemic, and we have been successful with only three deaths reported since the first case,  in March 2020.

A lot has changed, including mutations of the SARS-Cov-2. With the current outbreak that is spreading with record cases every day, is it time to rethink our strategies?

The pressure on livelihood and the economy could be blamed for the current situation. Had there been no pressure from various sectors to relax, had our quarantine centres not been overwhelmed by foreign workers, had we not considered letting projects run their own quarantine centres, we would not have been overwhelmed.

Or, with the Omicron variant, was it a matter of when and not if?

It may be a case of “ifs” but we are living the reality. In just a few days, the virus has been reported in more than five dzongkhags and the number is increasing. Experts are convinced that vaccinations even with a third or fourth round will not achieve  herd immunity. Many countries are seeing a drop in daily cases even without restrictions as they pass the peak of Omicron infection. What is also proven is that the vaccine protects people from hospitalization and deaths.

One theory is that countries with high vaccination coverage could develop immunity through infection as immunity through vaccines has failed. That bodes well with us. We are in a better situation. We have covered 80 percent of the entire population with two doses of vaccinations and 93 percent of the vulnerable group with the booster dose. We will soon roll out the booster dose and then vaccinate children below 12 years of age.

A week-long lockdown is completed. As we plan for another, albeit a relaxed one, it is a good time to think. We could wait for a week or two to trace, screen and isolate positive cases. Depending on the situation, we could also relook at our strategies to deal with Omicron or living with it.