Nima Wangdi

With Thimphu adopting smart lockdown within red clusters and buildings, many assumed it to be the government’s strategy of ‘living with the virus.’

Many also suggested that the government adopt the new strategy because of the pandemic’s immense impact on the country’s economy.

They said only people who test positive should be treated if required, and others should be allowed to work as usual.

However, health experts say that ‘living with the virus’ is not a choice for Bhutan.

Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group member Dr Tshokey said on national television that the idea of living with the virus is bad.

“It could lead to a devastating situation in the country,” he said.

He said they have been trying all possible ways to contain the virus by imposing lockdowns and blackouts followed by mass testing. “Because of these, we have been able to manage the number of positive cases during this outbreak to about 750. It would have easily crossed 1,000 if left unattended as people suggest.”

Dr Tshokey said people who are suggesting to ‘live with the virus’ are those who have not been infected with it. “People start panicking when they or their family members are infected.”

He said if the virus is left unattended by not even wearing facemasks, more people would be infected including elderly people, unvaccinated children, and people with comorbidities.

“This could be devastating as there would be more people in the hospital seeking treatment. “Elderly people, although vaccinated, are frail because of old age and the virus could affect them severely.”

He said that research has proven that a person infected with the virus, even if recovered, becomes susceptible to lung disease, which would be difficult to recover from. “Children can also have kidney and heart diseases.”

Dr Tshokey said that people should not think that the Omicron variant is like a common cold and that lockdowns are unnecessary.

He said some countries adopted the ‘living with the virus’ concept as they could not handle the situation. “They did not choose to ‘live with the virus’ but were obliged to do so.”

Meanwhile, online sources state that some countries have already implemented the ‘living with the virus’ strategy because some have enviable vaccination rates and others have decided the costs of continued economic and social restrictions outweigh the benefits.

Countries like Denmark, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, and Chile have started living with the virus since the end of 2021 according to online sources. As of today, the number of cases is increasing in those countries.