Preparing for another lockdown

Life is returning to normal. At least this is what we feel when we look around. Businesses are opening, so are the markets. Offices have resumed, schools are reopening and streets are getting crowded. The high-risk areas in the south are also seeing the restrictions eased.

More Covid-19 cases are being reported, but the surge is nothing compared to what we see in the region. And most of them are from contained or quarantine facilities. All in all, as we look forward to a month of festivity, we are confident that everything is under control.

More than six months after we detected the first Covid-19 case, we are looking back to see where we have failed or made mistakes. Our Covid-19 story, thus far, is about success, right leadership, right decisions and cooperation of the masses. The number seems alarming. 252 for a small country is huge, but our recovery rate is impressive. We have not lost a soul to the pandemic.  None had to go through the pain of being supported by a ventilator. It is a story of success, another small Bhutanese story.

We should do better hereon. There were enough lessons learnt from the 21-day nationwide lockdown. Even as we prepare for the Blessed Rainy Day to cleanse our impurities, we know where we have erred and where we can improve. The strict unannounced lockdown may have caused inconveniences. People were stranded, separated, caught off guard, including getting stranded in hotel rooms without the knowledge of life partners, but we have not heard of any single soul deprived of food to shelter. Nobody fell ill or died because of the lockdown.

We have not won the war against Covid-19, but our strategy could become better. The lockdown came without warning. It put to test what we had prepared since March. There were shortfalls. The biggest was coordination. There were, as some on the ground put it, too many authorities commanding that created confusions. But that is ok; we will learn from it.

The government and many other agencies are back on the drawing board. They will see how coordination can be improved should there be another lockdown. Information, whether lack of it or more than needed confuse people. A good example is the contact numbers and the hotlines. There were too many hotlines that the purpose of having a hotline was defeated. Some officials not even on Covid-19 duty were surprised when people started contacting them for information.

From experience, we know information is important during a crisis. It is even better if people are informed in advance. As the government and the task forces prepare for a way forward, it is better to inform people beforehand. No amount of preparation is good if the public is not aware of the strategies and of their responsibilities. We have seen during the lockdown that cooperation from the masses is the biggest contribution to our success.

The most successful plans will be those whose details are shared among the public and through the media. We put preparedness plans in place to contain a crisis, not to please anybody.

A good plan is just another plan unless it is implemented with the knowledge of the people it is targeted to.

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