…as neighbouring India reports all-time record cases of more than 200,000 in the past 24 hours  

Younten Tshedup  

Stepping out of the 21-day quarantine yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering called on Bhutanese to not let their guards down against the pandemic given the deteriorating conditions in neighbouring countries. 

Lyonchhen remained in the quarantine after returning from a state visit to Bangladesh recently. 

According to media reports, breaking all previous records, India reported more than 200,000 positive cases in the last 24 hours including 1,000 plus deaths from the virus on Thursday. It was the fifth straight day where India saw more than 150,000 new cases and the ninth straight of over 100,000 cases. 

The world’s hardest-hit country by the pandemic, the United States, took 21 days to reach the daily count of 200,000 daily cases from 100,000 per day. India reached that grim milestone in just 11 days. 

The ‘tsunami of cases’ have crippled the health facilities in the country.  Ambulances frequent the hospitals every other minute in the major hotspots such as in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. But not all patients who come to the hospital get a bed straight away, causing massive anxiety to patients and their families according to media reports. 

This could be Bhutan if people are not careful and mindful of the global Covid-19 situation, warned Lyonchhen. He said that following the vaccination programme, Bhutanese have become complacent. 

Lyonchhen said that because there were no cases in the community, people had developed a false sense of security. “Every country in the world today is experiencing a surge in the number of positive cases and many of them have imposed the lockdowns once again.” 

He said that the alarming cases in India should serve as a reminder for Bhutanese to strictly follow public health measures.

“The situation in India is worsening. In the last 24 hours, they reported more than 200,000 new cases including over 1,000 deaths. This has not happened before,” he said, adding that the numbers were only those that were reported. “There could be more because some of the cases could be unreported.”

Lyonchhen warned that if people let their guards down and become complacent, it would undo all the efforts put in so far. “We have all our protocols and guidelines strictly being implemented, especially along the borders. However, we all need to be extra vigilant this time.”

He added that a single positive case in the community this time could lead to a much more severe implication for the country. “This is not the time to become complacent.”

Meanwhile, following the first wave of the pandemic between March and November last year, India enjoyed a period of relative calm. Businesses started functioning, markets became crowded, dance clubs, malls, and gyms resumed at full capacity. Crowded festivals like Holi and Kumbh Mela were held and multiple election rallies were conducted. A common thing in all these places was the non-compliance to safety protocols including wearing of facemasks and physical distancing.

Towards the end of last month, India experienced what experts called a ‘deadly’ and highly contagious second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides the steady rise in the number of positive cases, India’s death toll due to the virus is also rising consistently. As of yesterday, the country had recorded over 14.1 million cases including 173,000 plus deaths.