The Jomotsangkha lesson

Jomotsangkha is under strict restrictions. The lockdown in India has already affected the drungkhag. There is an informal gag on the media issued by local authorities and there is fear in the town that borders Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Since the news of the shopkeeper suspected of testing positive for coronavirus went viral, the remote town has become more secluded. Even a telephone call to local leaders is rejected with suspicions. Within the town, it is learnt that the family of the suspected case is being stigmatised.

The shopkeeper, who was tested and retested negative on the more reliable PCR, runs a shop that was popular in the town before the incident. Family members are feeling stigmatised and the shop has lost its customers. The social media community is reported to be trolling the family and relatives.

Media breaking the news about the shopkeeper testing positive on the Rapid Test Kit disturbed the community and many more beyond Jomotsangkha. The updates on the retest done on the PCR unfortunately didn’t calm those who got worked up.

There is a growing concern, some even blaming media that the news was fake and that media should not have created the panic. For the record, long before the mainstream media got a whiff of it, it was already on social media. The information shared was going viral on Wechat and Facebook. It was not verified and had no source. The newspapers and the national TV shared the news after verifying with the health ministry, some from the health minister.

It must have created some panic, especially when not read in full, but the news was important not for media, but for the country amid our fight against the coronavirus.

With the imported cases well under control through the mandatory quarantine system, the concern today from His Majesty The King, the government and the health ministry is preventing an infection in the community. We all know the risk of a community infection without travel history.

Jomotsangkha borders Assam where as of yesterday 43 positive cases were confirmed. Bongaigaon, close to Gelephu town is in a red zone and in the west, Alipurduar, not far away from Lhamoizingkha detected four positive cases in a single day recently.

Everybody needs to be concerned. If the result on the Rapid Test Kit was a false alarm, it came as a good warning. Restrictions on movement of people, gathering, closing of business and even a lockdown is the immediate action should there be a single case of community infection.

We can surmise that Jomotsangkha is now more prepared after the scare. Given the porous border it shares with Assam, we cannot take any chance. The recent incident could pass as a good drill for the community and the local leaders.

What we don’t need is branding people as virus carrier just because they were tested for Covid-19. A lot of these must be from ignorance. That’s why we need education and communication. Not talking to media or discouraging people from doing so will not help anyone.

We have people sharing their stories from isolation wards, from quarantine facilities and those who recovered. Our tolerance level is high when we understand that Covid-19 is not associated with race, religion or nationality. It is a disease that is curable when detected at the earliest.

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