After 12 new positive cases in Phuentsholing, the border town has now been declared a red zone. What does that mean?

An area is declared a red zone when it becomes the hotspot or has the highest caseload. We have 13 in Phuentsholing, the highest, excluding those detected from the quarantine centres. In some countries, a zone is declared red when, for instance, there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 population or more than 10 percent of diagnostic test results come back positive.

This is not the case in Phuentsholing.

The 12 new cases are asymptomatic and detected from a contained cohort. The red zone, in our case, means we initiate more stringent protective measures to prevent more people getting exposed to the risk.

The Prime Minister and the health minister overseeing the fight against Covid-19 still insist that the rising cases in the last few days should not be considered as a community transmission. Health officials are investigating the index cases.

The country is already in a lockdown. So, measures initiated during red zone status in some countries like limiting social gatherings, asking people to wear masks when going out or close businesses are out of the question. With the nationwide lockdown, we are already one step ahead in controlling a community transmission.

By yesterday, it was confirmed that those who worked at the Mini Dry Port in Phuentsholing where the 13 cases were reported, had travelled to other dzongkhags. But they are being traced and quarantined. As of last night, five were traced and quarantined in Punakha. More are being traced, including those who had been to the port recently. Truckers in Wangdue, Trongsa and Bumthang were also identified and isolated in quarantine facilities. There is no reason to panic.

However, there are risks and people should be concerned. Given that the incubation period for the novel coronavirus can be up to 14 days after exposure, it is wiser to be safe than sorry. This gives us more reasons to be concerned.

The lockdown has caused inconveniences. People are stranded, are running out of essentials or getting bored at homes. Pandemic disrupts life, creates chaos and brings disasters. We are only talking about inconveniences. People are using every means to pressure the government to let them move despite appeals to stay wherever they are, as movement could expose more people to the virus.

Despite the inconveniences, the safest and the surest way to get out of the situation is to follow the protocols set by the government.

Some problems have solutions. The many Covid-19 task forces are exploring them. We may have been caught off guard, but with better coordination, communication and cooperation, most of the inconveniences can be addressed.

Sooner we find solutions to the problems created by the lockdown, better will be the cooperation from the public.