Nima Wangdi

With the lockdown in Thimphu in its fourth week, a woman who runs a bar  in Namseling said every day is a struggle as not just her ration and savings are running out. The shop is the only source of income for her family.

She looks after her mother, two brothers and a sister and the education of younger siblings.

“All that I have managed to save has exhausted and I’m worried about rent too,” she said. Her house rent is Nu 15,000 a month.

“I have to think about so many things now I also can’t even sleep properly. What if something happens to my family?” she said.

The woman said, in a place like in Thimphu, one will literally not be able to survive without a reliable source of income. “I am not saying the lockdown should not be there but I am worried about my livelihood.”

Another woman, who runs a garment shop in Babesa said staying home doing nothing is bothering her.

“I am not worried about the community cases in the capital or elsewhere but I am worried about my family’s survival after this lockdown,” she said. Her monthly rents amounting to Nu 42,000 for house and shop have not been paid.

A 25-year-old corporate employee said not being able to socialise with her friends is straining her mental health. “Since I live with anxiety disorder, it is challenging to stay motivated and active.”

She said as people start to live in the same house throughout day and night, they start to nag.   

Especially, elderly people go grumpy maybe because they don’t want to see so many people around them all the time, she said.


Is lockdown only the solution?

A civil servant said she is not against the lockdown but it’s time to think of doing it better. “The virus is mutating and cases are detected despite the lockdown. This shows that we need to change our strategy now.”

She said, initially authorities talked much about initiating smart lockdowns in the future that would not prolong more than a week. “Two years after the onset of the pandemic, we are still struggling,” she said.

“More than the virus, it is the never-ending lockdown announcements that is affecting me,” she said detecting many cases from the community even after the third week of the lockdown only showed that the lockdown has not worked.

Another person, Lhatu (name changed) said the ineffective lockdown protocol would only lead to loss of lives from other diseases and mental disorders.

Lhatu said people are social animals and locking them up for a long time will lead to serious problems. “Maybe it’s time we learn to live with the virus or explore some other ways to deal with it.”

He said that the lockdown could have more impacts on people’s mental wellbeing than on the businesses. “There may be many people surviving on daily wages and what would happen to them when they can’t work?”


Stranded people and hosts

A woman living in Bebena said she had nine people at home at one point in time as visitors got stranded after the lockdown. She said they didn’t move around for the sake of their own safety.

“Some they managed to leave for their respective homes somehow but some still remain,” she said. “We also incur more expenditure during lockdowns as people have better appetite.”

A resident from Tsirang stranded in Thimphu said that he was living with his cousin at Changzamtok for about a month now. He said he has a lot of farm work in the village but he can’t travel.

“I tried for e-permit but that is not applicable for the people like me who have no personal vehicle,” he said. “There is so much to do when I get there.”

Another person, who had got stranded in Tashgiyangtse earlier said he could get to his home in Bumthang since his brother had a private car. “We were stranded there for about a week and started to feel burdening my hosts. The host doesn’t show it but it was getting very uncomfortable.”

However, a Thimphu resident said one of his family members passed away recently during the lockdown and it was easier for him to manage.

He said he did not have to attend to many guests and feed them like people usually do at the crematorium or during the rituals. “This is because the government has set a ceiling of 20 people to attend funeral rite at the crematorium. We could mourn properly.”

“It doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to spend more but treating mass at the crematorium did not make much sense,” he said.

It’s like His Holiness the Je Khenpo disallowing meat items at the crematorium a few years ago. He said people would otherwise make a party at the crematorium with all the meat items.

Meanwhile, health workers and de-suups collected 6,600 samples from the South Mega zone and the Lungtenphug area in Core 2 mega zone. The results would be declared today. Mass testing would continue today from Core 2.

The government on February 6 extended the lockdown by three more days to carry out the mass testing. Thimphu went under lockdown since January 16.