As we enter the second week of the lockdown and with increasing Covid-19 community cases in the country, particularly from Wangduephodrang, people want to know how and why the outbreak happened. Many are questioning the government, and demanding accountability.

The concerns and queries are valid. We have touted our successful response against the pandemic and putting public safety first until now. With the Omicron variant now getting out of hand, especially with increasing cases in the community, all eyes are on how the foreign workers were brought in without antigen testing at the border gate and transported to Rurichhu in Wangduephodrang in a ‘bubble arrangement’ mode.

While members of Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group (TAG) claim that due protocols and procedures were followed while bringing the foreign workers in, it is becoming evident that not all protocols and procedures were followed.

If antigen tests were not conducted at entry points because of the inaccuracy of the tests during the early stages of infection, the workers should have been mandated to produce Covid-19 negative test results from no earlier than 72 hours prior to entry.

Justifying that the workers come from humble backgrounds and not implementing prescribed rules will not help anyone. If the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources decided to do away with the antigen test and Covid-19 negative test results, officials who made the decision should take accountability for the current outbreak. If the government officials or ministers advised it, they should be answerable.

The taskforce is investigating the outbreak, but will the people ever know the outcome of the investigation? The lockdown has made life difficult for many, especially daily wage earners. People have complied with the lockdown mandates, mostly without complaint. Patience will run out if it prolongs. The Bhutanese people deserve to know.

We need foreign workers to work on the various projects missing deadlines. They were given preference when the situation improved. The priority was not questioned, but with all fingers pointing to the lapses at the quarantine centre at Punatsangchhu, people are asking if proper procedures were followed or not.

More than the international health regulations, presumably, compassionate Buddhist values would stop us from asking agencies to send any person with the virus back. They are treated like any Bhutanese testing positive for the virus and given due care. We have done that before and we will continue to do it. But the government and those making decisions cannot use that as an excuse for not following due procedures.

The Prime Minister recently pledged accountability. It is time to live by the words for “the habitual conduct of justifying and defending ourselves in everything we do must stop.”