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Even as we welcome the news of more vaccines being secured and wait for the second dose roll out, Phuentsholing thromde entered lockdown 4.0. It is a complete lockdown, harsher than the 84 days that many had to endure. Neighbouring Samtse too has been under lockdown on and off as cases continue to rise.

Lockdowns, we know from past experience, seems to be the best preventive measure. It causes inconveniences, but it is scientifically proven to be the best in breaking the chain. 

Phuentsholing can be a difficult place to live during summer even during normal times. The days are long and hot. Water shortage or in excess is a perennial problem and not all residents have the luxury of spacious living rooms with fans or conditioned air to see through a two-week long complete lockdown. However, the numerous lockdowns have hardened the residents. Not many are complaining of the complete lockdown. Rather, they want it to be strictly implemented so that they could return to normal lives.

The chances of returning to the normal we think is slim, for a long time. But when the lockdown is lifted, there are good days to look forward to. We would have gotten the vaccinations into many arms. The number of doses committed by our friends, development partners and well-wishers are enough to achieve herd immunity. There will be more on the way. With borders sealed, risky communities put under strict lockdowns, we could buy more time to arrange more vaccines.

One lesson the pandemic taught us, even as many countries relax restrictions, after getting jabbed twice, is that the normal times we expect will not be back for a long time or for ever. We have learnt good lessons from the pandemic. Phuentsholing was a good example. When the borders were sealed last March, we saw how the local economy crippled. There were no workers to keep businesses running when foreign workers were barred from entering.

We saw, sadly, how unemployment shot up, food and market became short, service came to a halt. We also saw the willingness in our own people to take up odd jobs or fill the gaps. We knew, perhaps for the first time, how many Bhutanese were living across the border because “home” was too expensive. And we witnessed, once again, the love and care of His Majesty The King for his people and what sacrifices mean when serving the people. Not many complained about restrictions or loss of income because the King came to the rescue not only in terms of Kidu, but by exemplary leadership.

We should emerge stronger and wiser from the pandemic. We will be smarter and wiser if we do not forget what Covid-19 taught us. Covid-19 reminded us of our shortcomings, exposed our weakness and strengths. At the policy level, Covid-19-forced austerity measures unearthed how much money could be saved from wastage. Nobody went hungry or had to reschedule their lifestyle because there were no tours or workshops or conferences that earned a few thousands more for some, and several thousands, for a privileged few.

We are bearing the inconveniences of the pandemic. A lot is cushioned by the Royal Kidu that came in many forms. If we want to return to “normal”, we have to think twice. We have to return to “normal” with renewed hope having learnt the lessons the pandemic taught us. 

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