…following which government begins relaxation of the nationwide lockdown  

Younten Tshedup 

Following 21 days of nationwide lockdown, the health ministry’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) has confirmed that despite the surge in the number of positive cases (after the lockdown), there was no widespread community outbreak in the country.

This meant that the lockdown – the most extreme form of social distancing – could finally relax and give in ways for the government to implement ‘unlocking’ measures.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the government was confident to state that the lockdown measures had been successful 21-day after it was first enforced.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office, since the nationwide lockdown on August 11, 111 new Covid-19 positive cases were detected.

Majority of the new positive cases were detected in Phuentsholing, which was declared a red zone following the confirmation of local transmission in the community. A few contacts of Phuentsholing cases also tested positive to the virus in Paro and Haa.

However, a situational analysis from the TAG established that the new positive cases were mostly from confined clusters and quarantine facilities.

“While the risk continues, experts with TAG advises highest level of precaution as the government explores measures to ease the lockdown and make lives more comfortable for our people,” states the press release.

The press release also stated that the lockdown period of 21 days was considered from the proven virology knowledge that most infections are restored in three weeks.

“Even if one has been infected by the virus, you would recover by the end of the three weeks, thus breaking the chain,” it stated. “Your staying indoors would have prevented it from passing on to more vulnerable members of the society.”

The experience from the mandatory 21-day quarantine period for those who arrived in the country from abroad also supported the rationale.


No time to let our guards down  

Towards the end of his address to the nation last evening, Lyonchhen made it clear that should there be any unforeseen positive cases following the announcement yesterday, another round of lockdown could also happen.

While the government plans to ensure, at all costs, to lessen the frequency of such lockdowns, the Prime Minister also cautioned that globally, many countries have revealed a surge in the Covid-19 cases, mostly appearing in the second week of post-lockdown.

Which is why Lyonchhen said that the unlocking approaches should be well calculated, balancing the acts while being mindful of the epidemiological reality in the country. “Our re-opening strategies should be gradual.”

He said that the disease was here to stay and the government would always emphasise the health and safety of the people above everything else.

Lyonchhen said that people must adopt and adapt to the new habits and responsibilities, as it was the only way ahead.

The press release stated that with more relaxations, the government hopes that the people would exhibit similar maturity and responsibility as they did during the lockdown.

“We have to be vigilant and mindful that the virus is on our land. It is not visible to our eyes, so it is only through right actions and behaviour that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

It also stated that the government would ensure subsequent lockdown measures for prevention of transmission of the disease, to be more familiar and predictable for the public.

The government also appealed to all public to follow the Covid-19 norms at all times. Wearing of facemask is now made compulsory especially in urban centres.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister thanked all the citizens for playing a responsible part in breaking the chain of transmission by staying home. “Despite the difficulty and sacrifices, everyone  kept their problems and frustrations locked in with themselves. We are very thankful to each and every one of you.”

He said that no country in the world would have been blessed with such solidarity and support from the people in such times. The three weeks have been that of learning, understanding and coming together for the nation that dealt with the disease that made inroads over time, he added. It is only with the combination of a well-designed, effective lockdown, and reliable and freely available tests that we can fight back this disease.

“And in this fight, with His Majesty The King leading, every one of you played your role. With such energy and spirit binding the force, we are confident that we can win this battle.”