With 48 COVID positive cases confirmed in the country, we are facing a crisis of sorts. Though nine have recovered of which two have migrated, we have to admit that the spike in number of cases is worrying. If the recovered and released cases relapse as in other countries, there is the danger of community transmission and Bhutan entering the red zone. This would spell disaster for a small and close knit community like ours.
Right now, what we can do is little except follow the prescribed measures such as self-isolation, maintaining 1m (3 feet) distance from other individuals, washing our hands regularly or using a hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into bent elbow or tissue and disposing the tissue properly, avoiding touching mouth, nose and eyes, and seeking medical attention if we have cough, fever and difficulty breathing. These measures have been recommended by the WHO.
As of now, our authorities have also asked people to use face masks. We cannot afford to neglect these directions. It concerns the health and survival of the country. However, amidst the pandemic, we also see opportunities to grow and do better as a society.
For example, we have seen acts of solidarity, volunteerism and kindness. This comes from a special place and we must be grateful for all little and big acts that contribute to the wellbeing of society. We can also take responsibility by following the guidelines prescribed by the government and health organizations like the WHO to help avoid spread the pandemic. It takes a mature person to act like a responsible citizen when nobody is looking and right now is high time to act.
COVID19 has forced Bhutanese out of inertia and enabled collective action. We now have farmers upping agriculture production and even people who have time at hand to take up activities liken vegetable farming. This is good. Up until now, we had acres of fallow land which nobody was willing to farm. Now, we are at least using our resources and time productively. It is high time we become self-sufficient in food production.
Further, with foreign workers exiting the country, we have opened windows of opportunity for locals. Currently, youth are involved in construction work and other labor that require physical energy and expertise. At least, many youth now are not loitering around for want of jobs.
Also, layoffs have been engaged in work like maintenance of hiking trails. Earlier no one would have given these tasks a second look. Now with the covidemic, this has become more a matter of necessity than a luxury.
Not only are we discovering a surge in productivity and use of hitherto unused resources-both manpower and natural wealth, we are also seeing solidarity and cooperation among the Bhutanese to fight the pandemic. With volunteers, Desuungs, health professionals and armed forces responding from the frontlines and organizations and individuals coming together and joining forces, it is heartening to see that we still have the spirit of Bhutanese among ourselves.
Currently, Bhutan is in the orange zone. We have not seen community transmission or deaths caused by COVID but it would be wise to remember that the pandemic does not respect any person. And if we are to emerge triumphant from this phase, we must be wise enough to follow the precautionary guidelines while supporting each other as we have been doing so far.
And yes, we must use our time, talent and resources productively and prudently so that we can tide through this crisis with minimum difficulty and damage.
However, if the situation deteriorates, we must also be prepared to face the worst. At this time, we have hardworking leaders who are handling the crisis as wisely as they can. Right now, the best thing we can do is cooperate. Don’t think that it can’t happen to you. Do the best you can but be prepared.