This month we celebrate the birth anniversaries of His Majesty The King and His Royal Highness the Gyalsey. It is a season of good tendrel when our small population celebrates Lomba, Nyilo, traditional day of offering (Buelwa), Chunipa Losar, and the official Losar. And this year, we are united in an unprecedented crisis which not only calls for a concerted response, but forces us to reflect deeply on ourselves, on our society, and on humanity at large.

We do not know what lies in store for us in the year ahead. But what we do know is that we are being prepared and positioned to the extent that is humanly possible. We do not know of any time history – and there certainly aren’t any now – that a Head of State chooses to spend all his time in the most risky and vulnerable parts of the country and then weeks in quarantine.

We know the impact of His Majesty The King visiting the most remote villages where even local officials rarely make it. People are comforted and reassured and officials – in this case the task forces – are motivated and inspired.

The Royal presence is inspiring in itself. But it is the analysed, reasoned, and forward-looking Royal guidance that is most convincing and reassuring. Bhutan’s response to the pandemic has been uniquely effective since His Majesty took command, from the first moments of the outbreak.

Today, we are also debating the globally persuasive argument that it is more logical to live with the virus, allowing socio-economic growth and enabling people to restore “normality”. We do not criticise the countries that have decided to do this. But we acknowledge that they may be far better prepared with technology and expertise than we are. It makes pragmatic sense to watch their experiences and learn rather than emulate them.

Experts predict a new variant within months. And, again, it will be the virus which decides how potent it will be, not scientists. While there are countries that even decide to take risks and sacrifice a few vulnerable people to benefit the masses, it has been Bhutan’s policy not to make such sacrifices. We have set the goal of minimising the loss of lives.

In many ways the Covid-19 experience promises to be a renaissance in nurturing Bhutan for a new era. At a time when we have acknowledged a dislocation of government functions, we see the national and regional task forces that have become coordinated teams where people bring their different responsibilities and work together.

In the early stages of the pandemic we believed that even 100 cases would be too many for Bhutan. Now we may be disturbed by 6,000 positive cases but not thrown into panic. We are systematically tackling the challenges, step by step, and the successful vaccination programme will soon cover young children.

Bhutan’s response to the pandemic helps prepare us for the wider scenario. The Royal vision for nation building is shaking up a systemic inertia of malaise and indifference. We are beginning to see a reform of government and transformation of people and society. His Majesty The King has set in motion initiatives to enable youth to redefine the future.

For Bhutan, the crisis of a dimension that most of us will only experience once in a lifetime, is an opportunity to unite behind the leadership of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. In assuming the burden of responsibility, His Majesty personifies compassion that is far more than empathy – this is transcendental governance.

So we ask ourselves. We have the good fortune of such up-lifting leadership. Can we muster the will to follow? We are not asked to be loyal subjects exercising blind obedience. We are being given a clear-sighted path into the future. Having been away for His Royal Highness the Gyalsey’s birthday, His Majesty chooses to spend his own birth anniversary along the most vulnerable points of the country’s borders. Can we too make our humble contributions?