It is disheartening that the government’s repeated pleas have not deterred people in breaching the COVID-19 protocols that have been put in place to combat the virus.
Records available with the health ministry show that more than 100 cases of breaching Covid-19 protocols have been recorded as of last week. These are mostly people, who continue to breach protocols and illegally enter the country and the cases are more so from the border areas, which puts Bhutan at a natural risk of the deadly virus as it shares an open border with India that has recorded a total of 1.29mn confirmed cases so far.
For example in the border town of Samtse, 31 people have been arrested by security forces for breach of border security protocols since early May this year, thus taking the number of arrests made in Samtse to 61. Some have even been convicted, while a few others are in quarantine or waiting trial.
There is no denying the fact that when the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every country in the world, Bhutan has been able to overcome all odds and kept the COVID-19 cases under control. We have battled the pandemic successfully so far. This can be attributed to the government making it mandatory since March 23 for all individuals travelling into the country to undergo the 21-day facility quarantine.
But again we must understand that the battle against the pandemic is far from over until we have a definite medical solution in sight or the worst is yet to come. However, with cases of people entering the country illegally, it indubitably puts not just an individual but the entire nation in danger. The danger of the community transmission of the coronavirus, which we see in our neighboring countries, may happen here as well.
While the government, health ministry and other authorities concerned and personnel are doing their jobs to keep the Covid-19 cases at bay, the least we can do as concerned citizens if we are entering into the country is declare our travel history and undergo facility quarantine accordingly. We must understand and feel fortunate that the government is spending a minimum of Nu 30,000 to quarantine a person. By adhering to quarantine procedure, it’s just not that we are helping ourselves as an individual, but we are also helping the community.
Even His Majesty The King, during the Royal Address to the Nation on April 10, aptly described how the reckless action of a single person who clandestinely crosses the border for trade, or to meet acquaintances, or to bring someone to Bhutan, risks spreading the coronavirus in their community and the country.
His Majesty elaborated how such an act will completely undermine all our national efforts and therefore called for ensuring national security as of paramount importance, especially in these uncertain times.
We must, therefore, be mindful of the concern shared by His Majesty. Local community transmission of Covid-19 will not only ruin all the efforts put in by the country in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, but it would also be disastrous for a small country like ours.