Every time the health ministry updates the status of Covid-19 cases in the country, there are more questions than answers. People want to know who, where and how an individual contracted the virus. They are after details to the extent that the media is blamed for releasing half-baked information.

Both the health ministry and the public have their own justifications. The public wants to know the details because they are concerned. If they know the details of the person like where he or she had travelled or visited, it would help them report or help authorities in tracing contacts. Some are even questioning the pleas the health ministry made to help them trace as information provided is vague or incomplete. 

The health ministry is governed by rules and ethics. They cannot issue details. In our case, people are ready to stigmatise and it is right to be socially concerned about revealing details. The debate will ensue as long as the pandemic lasts.

After the health ministry revealed that 21 of the 187 Covid-19 positive cases so far are Indians, officials of Project DANTAK and the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT), there were more questions. The instant reaction was that the government was hiding information, as they had no control over the two foreign organisations in the country. There had been rumours, for many weeks now, that these officials were free to travel in and out of the country even when the border was sealed. 

The health ministry confirmed 16 positive cases among Project DANTAK officials, five among IMTRAT and revealing a case from August 22 only after a week gave reasons for people to be suspicious. The health minister assured that it was not important to reveal who tested positive as long as the national protocols are followed. Whether it is an official of a foreign organisation or a local farmer, as long as the case is managed well, the risk too is managed. If contacts are traced and quarantined following protocols, it doesn’t matter who or which nationality tested positive.

If all foreign organisations in the country are governed and strictly adhered to the protocols and standards established, the fight against the spread of the virus could be controlled. 

However, the concern among the public makes sense. The government had been telling people to be concerned, not panic. When rumours are not clarified, it creates panic. Bhutanese say there won’t be smoke without a fire. They heard that foreigners had contracted the virus. It became a concern to the extent that some are convinced that the virus reached Phuentsholing through uncontrolled movement of foreign officials. 

The health minister clarified that every individual in the country, foreign or local are governed by the same protocol and it is being followed. This should convince the people. Transparency could help people become more cautious. We have seen this before. With three new cases confirmed among IMTRAT officials in Haa yesterday, residents of Haa would be more cautious, for instance. These would help the government’s effort in controlling the virus or the people during the lockdown.