Fourteen dzongkhags, including Thimphu, went under a 24-hour lockdown from yesterday morning. The question that is being asked now is: is it likely that the lockdown will be extended? All depends on how quickly we can trace contacts; tests are being conducted in the dzongkhags currently under lockdown. When the paper went to press, nothing could be said with absolute certainty. The Prime Minister’s Office has said that results will determine “further course of action”.

While we await the news of further developments, the sudden lockdown is a grim reminder of our handling of Covid-19 threats. Not forgetting commendable efforts of the front liners and volunteers to keep our communities safe, the little improvement in the situation had us be careless with the standing health and safety protocols. That some relaxations are necessary cannot be argued against given the long shadow of the unrelenting virus under which we are forced to live. But relaxation doesn’t mean omitting or disregarding the measures that bolster safety for oneself and others in the communities.

Because of the fast-spreading nature of the new variant and a lot more that we still do not know about the virus, there is a need for us to be stringent with safety measures and standards—by a very long shot. A lot, however, will depend on personal initiative. Breaching lockdown rules will put not only yourself in difficult circumstances, but also others in the community which can put tremendous pressure on our small health system.

From our past experiences we know that surrendering our little freedom to lockdown is never easy, but the fact remains that we must also deal with the problems that we created for ourselves. Even after long and constant endeavour to study the causes and the nature of the virus, we are yet to get our finger on it completely. From the little that we know, however, lockdowns have been found to be the most effective measure—disruptions besides—to contain the virus and its many strains from further spreading.

The thing to remember is that we are facing a new challenge that is more dangerous than the ones we have seen and experienced. Covid-19 is here to stay; in fact, chances are that in coming months and years we might have to contend with even more dangerous variants. Against such a reality, our best weapons are the ones we have already tested—and they are the simple measures that anyone can afford.

Timeless advice: wash our hands, keep distance, avoid crowding, and always wear your face mask.