Early during the Coronavirus pandemic, His Majesty The King and several world leaders described it as “a war against an invisible enemy”. In the same language, we are now finding out that it can be a long-drawn-out war. If the speed at which the enemy is moving is worrying, its ability to change its form is frightening.
As Covid-19 emerges in different mutations in different countries, every country or city that has declared some form of victory by relaxing what we now call Covid protocols has been forced to back down. Powerful nations like the US, China, Russia, UK are repeatedly withdrawing into lockdowns and the disciplined cultures of Asian tigers like Singapore, South Korea, and Japan are being tested to their limits. In South Asia and Africa, losing loved ones in large numbers is a norm in this new war.
In the absence of military might, economic strength, and population numbers, Bhutan survived through the ages by drawing on inner strength. Today, in the absence of technological and scientific expertise, we are drawing on the same resilience which His Majesty The King this week called sem-shu.
His Majesty emphasises one point which we know but need constant reminders. We are particularly vulnerable at this time because we believe that, having received a second dose of the vaccine, it is time to relax. And that would be disastrous.
We have started making plans to revive our occupations and restore our lives. Some of us are even planning holidays. That we must. But we have a more critical responsibility at hand. We need to get over the crisis before we plan our lives post crisis.
Today, we cannot lose sight of the real perspective of the situation. It is not time to relax. Every aspect of the global and regional trends conveys a stern warning. Share, don’t hoard. Learn from each other, don’t try to outdo each other. Don’t allow politics to overwhelm people’s health. And to take advantage of the situation for personal gain is stooping to the lowest of the low.
But as much as we know all this to be true, we know that it would be wishful thinking to believe that even a crisis would change it.
For small Bhutan, it makes more sense to look at ourselves. We know that our families, friends, and compatriots in the south are not just in discomfort – they are sometimes in pain. They live in claustrophobia and fear, risk of losing resolve and – if it drags on – hope. We know that some of us would buckle under the pressures that they bear. So we pray that all Bhutanese in the south muster the stamina and resilience, not just to hold on, but to come through the pandemic stronger than before.
His Majesty is himself in Phuentsholing, again, sharing the physical, economic, emotional, mental burden of our front liners. His Majesty is not just providing moral succour but even physical comforts and financial relief.
We do not forget that we are able to live normal lives, even under such extraneous circumstances, because they are there. Meanwhile the least we can do is to wear our masks, wash our hands, and postpone our parties. And, as many of us talk to our friends and families in the south, we do not forget to say “thank you”.
As Bhutan climbs to the top of the chart for vaccine coverage and health service response, we view it with relief rather than self-satisfaction. We cannot celebrate too quickly. The pandemic will not be here forever but we are in it for the long haul. In the neighbourhood, India’s fully vaccinated population was 6.77 percent, Bangladesh at 2.6 percent, Nepal at 4.8 percent and Thailand at 5.2 percent as of 26 July 2021.
Remember the wisdom of the words “no one will be safe until everyone is safe”.