Unlocking Bhutan

Much to the relief of the people, the Prime Minister last night announced a phase-wise relaxation of the nationwide lockdown. The relaxation is a calculative approach considering the risk while understanding the inconvenience caused for the last 21 days.

Should everything go according to plan, there will be some normality restored by next Monday as offices open and restrictions on movement of people and vehicles are lifted. To start with there will be more shops and restaurants opening, selected sports and restricted construction allowed.

However, the message, even as the lockdown eases, is having to be cautious and not getting relaxed. The relaxation, like the Lyonchhen said, was the result of the solidarity and support from the people during the lockdown. It was long, but a successful measure in breaking the chain. About 50,000 people were tested since the lockdown and besides Phuentsholing where the Red Zone status still stands, not many tested positive for the virus including in dzongkhags and towns that had people who visited Phuentsholing.

The Prime Minister thanked every individual for being with the government and frontline workers in the fight against the pandemic. By late night yesterday, people were thanking His Majesty The King and the government for relaxing the lockdown and the efforts put in to save the country from a full-blown community transmission.

However, let us remind ourselves that the fight is not over. The Prime Minister is urging the people to be mindful and still follow the Covid-19 protocols at all times. Following the norms is not difficult. We are talking about simple, yet important habits like wearing face masks, maintaining physical distance or not gathering.

The relaxation should not be misunderstood. It should not make people complacent again. Further relaxation depends on how the situation unfolds. The situation will depend on how each one of us cooperate or behave during the relaxed lockdown. There are important plans, for instance, to open schools so children could continue their education. The risk is not gone and failing to follow norms could jeopardize all the efforts put in so far and the plans ahead.

We have witnessed that lockdowns will be an on and off feature until a solution, a vaccine, is found. The frequency and duration depend on how the people join the fight against the pandemic. We have successfully managed 21 days under lockdown. We can do better when the restrictions are relaxed.

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