The residents in Phuentsholing town were awaken to the rude reality of pandemic when a man crossed the international border illegally and entered the town on November 8. 

The town was gradually returning to normalcy with no positive cases emerging from the community for almost three months now. 

The man and his contacts have tested negative for Covid-19 and remains in quarantine. While initial assessment seems to show there is no imminent threat from this incident, it serves a stark reminder to those living at the border town and all Bhutanese that risks still exist. 

It is festival season mainly in the southern border areas and across the border.  Cases are increasing across the border in some places of West Bengal, India. West Bengal reported 788 new cases and 17 deaths. Assam reported 247 new cases and 15 deaths. 

The problem is we don’t know how many Covid-19 positive cases are there in the community and if more such cases of illegal movement of people occur, it’s only a matter of time when a positive case will emerge in Phuentsholing. 

To make matters worse, many people have been foud not wearing their face masks properly. Handwashing habit and use of Druk Trace app is on the decline.

Recent reports show that 10 percent of the total 250 people counted moving around in the town, including those inside the shops, were found wearing their face masks inappropriately. 

Most Bhutanese are vaccinated, but it only protects us from becoming seriously ill and being hospitalised. While we can go about our daily lives, there is still the risk of a vaccinated person getting infected with the virus and transmitting it to another. 

Around this time last year, experts warned of a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases as the cold weather is best for the virus to thrive and transmit itself. As predicted, the world saw an increased number of cases, including deaths in winter. Bhutan too faced an active outbreak of the virus in Phuentsholing around this time last year. The threat is the same this time, if not more, warn health experts.

The pandemic can only be eradicated if all countries manage to vaccinate their entire population and have a well-established protocol against the pandemic. This has not happened which is why the threat from the pandemic, even for Bhutan, is still there.

So it has become more important than ever that we all continue to follow Covid-19 safety guidance and protocols. Besides the leadership of His Majesty and the efforts of the government, what kept us safe from the pandemic was the our adherence to safety protocols. 

With a little more caution we can advance to open up tourism and other activities to rebuild better. Time is of essence.