The way forward

The board examinations for students in Class X and XII will end today. Similarly, we will complete the Covid-19 vaccination campaign for children aged 5-11 for one week today.

Given these two achievements, it is likely that the eager and concerned residents of Thimphu and other places where restrictions are currently in place will find out in a day or two what the days ahead will look like.

It is, meanwhile, encouraging that by the end of the sixth day of the nationwide immunization program for children between the ages of 5 and 11, more than 96.1% of eligible children across the country have been vaccinated.

This is a remarkable achievement considering that the target for vaccination coverage of children ages 5 to 11 on Day 7 was a coverage rate of more than 90%.

Not only can we breathe a sigh of relief in terms of numbers, but also that our children, some 83,000 children in this age group, now have some protection against Covid-19.

There is no denying that the impact of Covid-19 on the health and well-being of the country’s children has been one of His Majesty The King’s and the government’s greatest concerns.

Vaccinating children is also appropriate because evidence is accumulating that the Omicron variant causes severe illness in young children compared to previous Covid-19 variants.

In a day or two, when the government provides more details on the current restrictions and regulations, one thing is clear that the country will not impose lockdowns even after the discovery of Covid-19 cases in the community as of mid-April. The Prime Minister already made this clear in his address to the nation earlier this month.

Only in two specific cases – when the threshold is reached in terms of hospitalization rates and bed occupancy in Covid-19 isolation wards, and when there is a new deadly variant in the future – will lockdowns be enforced.

As we move to phase II of Covid-19 management, we can also expect to see revisions or changes in policies and protocols, including quarantine and duration, tracing, testing, and treatment.

What is certain is that people now have a responsibility to protect themselves from Covid-19 and ensure the safety of their community and society as we move to a new level of Covid-19 management. Even the Prime Minister made it clear earlier this month that communities and individuals should take responsibility for protecting themselves and society at large from infection.

It is obvious that government efforts and initiatives alone will not be enough in our fight against Covid-19. Until people take more responsibility and become responsible citizens, both in spirit and in action, the road ahead will only be more grueling and arduous.