Unsafe if COVID-19 norms are flouted during festival season: Health Minister

Keeping the upcoming festival season in mind, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo advised people to follow COVID-19 guidelines strictly during the phase to prevent threats to society.

She said the country gears up to celebrate Dassain and Diwali in October, along with National day in the month of December. It is important to note that the rise in the number of new Covid-19 cases has been on the decline and there is no community transmission in the country. “New cases are imported,” she said.

Lyonpo added that if we falter in following COVID-19 guidelines during the festivals then corona can again turn risky and cause problems because the pandemic is yet to end.

The health minister, however, added that as per the people’s beliefs if people wanted to celebrate festivals, they should maintain social distancing, wear masks at all times and urge others to do the same. “I am saying all this because being the country’s health minister, it is my duty to protect people’s lives,” she said.

Meanwhile, the government is prepared to impose smart lockdowns in the country, if there is a surge in the COVID-19 positive cases and community transmission, the health minister said last Friday, amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus in the country.

She said the most other countries are dealing with a second wave. Experts have recommended that public behavioral change can stop the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A second wave is a threat to society, human lives and has a devastating economic impact.

“The more people break the rules of conduct and restrictions introduced to curb the pandemic, the greater the risk of such a second wave,” Lyonpo said, adding restrictions are no longer being as strictly enforced.

Lyonpo added the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the coronavirus may never fully disappear. It has stressed the possible consequences if people take the coronavirus lightly and revert to behavior patterns that prevailed before lockdown measures were put in place.

“People’s desire to travel is also on the rise and this can be another reason for increased infection rates and community transmission. Too many people are congregating in too small spaces, not using Druk trace, and not many are following the COVID norms these days,” said Lyonpo.

“Instructions have been issued to administrations across the country to ensure that precautionary measures are followed. But like in the past, success is impossible without the cooperation of the people,” said Lyonpo.

Lyonpo also asked people to follow guidelines and avoid big gatherings during the upcoming festivals. “Large public gatherings must not take place. These alone can unleash a second wave,” she warned.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu