The writing is on the wall. If the recent scare is not convincing to step up precautions, we shall have only ourselves to blame. Three hotel staff have tested positive in the capital. One had been out of the facility and mingled with people. Contacts are being traced and tested. There could be more, and in the community.
We have to be prepared. Prepared not in terms of rushing for essentials – alcohol, tobacco and junk food included, but in not letting the virus wreak havoc in the country. We are creating a situation where the virus, now known to be more dangerous, to spread. The concern, from yesterday’s experience, is another lockdown. The behaviour is just the opposite.
There is the need for a collective responsibility in preventing a devastating second wave. We can do it. And this time there is an urgency to do so.
The news we watch and read every day of events unfolding in neighbouring India should worry us. Thousands are dying every day, there are no beds in hospitals, crematoriums are overwhelmed and doctors and volunteers are pleading with the people to help them by staying home. It is an unfortunate and a grim situation.
A similar situation at home could spell tragedy. Help will be rare to come if we are gripped by a full blown second wave. The Covid -19 ward at the national referral hospital has only 29 beds. Of that only 12 are for intensive care or ICU. The entire country has 70 ventilators. For now, there are adequate stocks of oxygen cylinders, but we saw how it runs out when the pandemic gets out of control. We are well equipped without a full-blown outbreak and ill-equipped if even 200 chronic Covid-19 cases need hospitalization.
The source of the current infection is quarantine hotels. In other words, people returning from India, where experts announced the variant in India as a “double mutant” variant that is more infectious and escapes the immune system. More worrying is that scientists have found reasons in support of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 or the novel coronavirus. One reason is from quarantine hotels where long range transmission of the virus is happening between people who had never been in each other’s presence. The recent infections in Thimphu and Phuentsholing are from people working in quarantine hotels.
A nationwide lockdown, in case we have to, will cripple the economy that is showing signs of recovery. We have experienced how it affects all. We need not be a contractor or in the tourism business to feel the impact. We have seen how essentials become dear and how social problems creep in during a pandemic. Nobody wants to go through it again.
Above all, we will be undoing all the efforts put in so far including the much-lauded vaccination success. His Majesty The King personally overseeing the entire response and containment efforts made it simple and clear for all of us to understand.
“A careless person’s mistake will undo all our efforts. It will undo everything we have achieved so far.”
If we are not careful, we are heading towards that.