Yangchen C Rinzin

Bhutanese will celebrate the New Year and Nyilo in the comforts of their homes this week. 

Residents cannot have outdoor celebrations because the National Covid-19 Taskforce has extended the nationwide lockdown until January 2. The smart unlocking process will begin the following day.  

A nationwide lockdown was enforced for seven days on December 23 after the first local transmission of Covid-19 emerged. Since then the country has seen 184 local cases including the 11 cases announced yesterday. 

The lockdown was extended to discourage people from gathering to avoid spreading of disease and break the chain of transmission. 

The extension of lockdown would also enable health workers to continue in containment and prevention of the disease, according to the Prime Minister Office’s (PMO) press release. The test results of mass screening of representative samples are being processed. 

Health ministry conducted 30,000 RT-PCR tests, 29,000 antigen tests, and 2,500 antibodies tests since the first day of lockdown. 

“Test results would be furthered analysed to determine the way forward,” press release stated. 

Smart unlocking process based on epidemiological indicators will begin after the analysis is complete. This means there will be no blanket nationwide lockdown across dzongkhags. 

The unlocking of lockdown will be implemented region, dzongkhag, and zone wise. The permissible activities would differ from one place to another. 

Smart unlocking process is designed in a way that ensures minimise in the risk of the disease and its implementation will differ from places to places. 

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo during a press brief yesterday said that lockdown is critical in breaking the chain of transmission and if not, the disease would spread like a wildfire. 

Sowai Lyonpo urged people to adhere to lockdown protocols strictly because lockdown will aid in containing the spread of virus. 

“The contact tracing and tests are done and in next 7-8 days, we would know the status of the country and how far the virus has spread. All contacts of positive cases quarantined at home must follow protocols strictly and should not come out,” Sowai Lyonpo said. 

Sowai Lyonpo said that unlike the first lockdown in August, this time it is a case of local transmission and the way the disease is spreading is complicated. 

This is why a lockdown is considered as the most extreme form of social distancing that has proven effective in slowing the spread of the pandemic globally. 

According to World Health Organisation, in absence of an effective vaccine, social distancing measures were needed to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Sowai Lyonpo said that while the government understood the inconvenience the lockdown has caused it was the only effective way, in absence of a vaccine, in containing the disease.

However, National Covid-19 Taskforce decided to consider the movement of people with death and illness related emergencies. 

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that a lot of inconveniences were caused during the lockdown but bearing with the troubles and inconveniences was the individual’s contribution to the fight against the pandemic. 

 “You can’t be proud of contributing to Covid-19 fight without sacrifices and enduring some inconveniences. It’s okay if your company is going into a serious crisis; we can always revive the business. But for now, let’s stay safe.”

Meanwhile, the PMO press release stated that upon His Majesty’s command, the government is also working closely with donor partners and production units to secure the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible.