Lockdown must not freeze our responses

As we enter the fifth day of the nationwide lockdown, it is a good time to pause and reflect on the emergency situation.

There is a general consensus that we have managed the lockdown quite well. Despite concerns and complaints about not getting essential items or getting stranded, the agreement is that the past four days have been relatively well managed.

The government and relevant authorities are trying to improve service delivery. It should, from tomorrow, as better solutions are being explored.

The government was prepared to face a possible lockdown. Implementation on the ground, however, didn’t meet expectations. Layers of bureaucratic procedures affected service delivery. For instance, it took three days to issue cards to enable vehicles or officials on Covid-19 duty to move. Some are still sorting out the confusions.

However, our inconveniences are nothing compared to the hundreds of people on the frontline who cannot and do not complain, and are risking their lives. While we spend the lockdown in the comforts of our home, there are people guarding our borders in intense heat, exposed as they are to  the virus and not seeing family members or loved ones for days on end.

Our memories are short, but many of us saw images and videos of thousands of migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres to their villages in peak summer in neighbouring India. Some died of heatstroke, of tiredness and out of hunger on the way. The shortage of fresh vegetables and fruits are nothing compared to the images and videos we shared and talked about. Many would say that we cannot compare the situation, but we have not experienced the realities of an emergency. We are only talking about not getting bread or milk or having to put up in a hotel.

The real problem will start if the situation worsens and the lockdown extends for weeks, even months. Beyond the towns, life is no different with farmers tending to their fields and managing with stock from the previous years. Their only worry is wildlife predation when there are no people to guard their fields.

The government, even in a lockdown is being considerate. Priorities are being identified. Those stranded are being registered to be rescued, and rules are being relaxed to look into the inconveniences including delivering tobacco or doma at the door.

The expectation is that the zhung or the government will do everything.

The zhung can only do so much in an emergency. At the same time, promising too much only raises expectations. People get frustrated when what is claimed at press conferences and ground realities do not match. In Phuentsholing, people feel the local authorities failed miserably when they had to come out to buy essentials in a red zone declared area. However, with lessons learnt from the last few days, we can expect better days to see through the lockdown.

Besides vegetables and essentials, there are other pressing issues. There are reports of increasing teenage pregnancy cases during the pandemic. It is learnt that some had approached hospitals for abortion and when denied, threatened to commit self-harm or even suicide. We are also seeing an increase in gender-based violence.

Covid-19 has not claimed a single life so far. In fact, our recovery rate is impressive. Unwanted pregnancies or domestic violence are seen as bigger threats during lockdowns. It is said that many young women have become dependent on emergency contraceptive pills to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Health officials are worried about the growing use of emergency pills like the popular Ipill. Even as such pills are made available,  users must be informed about responsible use. There are side effects to consider. How we list our priorities and respond to them will matter more than anything.

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