Lockdown in Thimphu has been extended until February 10. Amid hard winter and dark shadows of the pandemic, this is bad news for many people, but this is no time to repine; if positive cases continue to emerge from the communities, a protracted shut-in may be necessary.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering yesterday announced that mass screening in the communities, disrupted by two days of heavy snowfall, must be continued to arrive at a decision to either prolonging the lockdown or to open up cautiously.

“The coming days will enable us to initiate more surveillance in the communities,” he said. “People are also encouraged to come for tests for slightest symptoms. This will add value to the surveillance and give us more clarity to define the way forward.”

The good news is that the number of people testing positive is dropping significantly and a “reasonable level of interaction among people” is now allowed inside mega zones. The advantage of this facility is that we might even be able to get a clearer picture of disease presence in the communities.

There is a problem, however. Misinformed or misled, a large number of people are taking it lightly and flouting Covid protocols. The world is yet to fully understand the Omicron variant. It may be mild but it is also life-threatening, as we have seen. Covid-19 and its many variants continue to claim an untold number of deaths globally.

In our case, we have elderly population, unvaccinated children, and people with pre-existing health conditions to worry about. The chances of our small health system being overwhelmed is very high, in which case, the repercussions can be devastating. We have come a long way and, at this stage, we can ill afford to throw a spanner in our efforts to keep the harm at bay.

Urging the people to refrain from subscribing to unfounded claims and arguments about Covid-19 in general and Omicron in particular, the health ministry yesterday issued a Public Appeal asking the people to not be complacent.

“The science behind long Covid and the complications it can cause is still evolving. Long Covid has caused serious complications, without known cure…”

A lengthy lockdown is in no one’s interest but we would be calling for more if we do not adhere to the standing protocols.