Three-day mass testing for Covid-19 begins in Thimphu

Will people take responsibility to fight against Covid-19 pandemic?

After the opening of the restrictions, many feel that there will be surge in Covid-19 cases, while the government says it should not be a matter of concern

As the government plans to gradually do away with lockdown and lift other restrictions, many are questioning whether the people will take responsibility to fight against the virus, while the government maintains that it would focus on hospitalization and preventing deaths.

Talking to Business Bhutan, member of the Health Ministry’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG), Dr Sithar Dorjee said now the government is allowing the infection to continue, but the government will closely monitor the positivity rate, hospital bed occupancy, and severe cases.

According to him, looking at the Omicron’s data, the hospitalization rate is 0.2% out of nearly 15,000 people, and none required ventilation or oxygenation.

“Given that data, the Omicron is safe. But what the government is trying to do now is we will monitor hospitalizations and bed occupancy as long as bed occupancy is not saturated or above 70%. Many people are suffering only mildly, so we do not have to worry,” he said.

However, he added, “You have to isolate yourself if you have symptoms. That alone is enough for people to follow health protocols. People need to adhere to home quarantine, home isolation, and self-quarantine as much as possible. This will help keep cases at a manageable level.”

Given a vaccination coverage rate of over 95%, Bhutan, meanwhile, has not confronted situations that exist in other countries of the world. These are the only reasons why the government is so lax and limits itself only to symptomatic testing.

Dr. Sithar Dorjee said that people should just follow health protocols as much as possible.

“It’s a community responsibility, community participation, and community ownership-that’s the most important message the government is sending now. Even if it’s not bad, each individual has to take responsibility,” he said.

Business Bhutan asked several people what they thought about what will happen after the current restrictions are lifted and whether people will follow health protocols.

Many said it is a contentious issue and added that while some would follow the protocols, others would not.

Phub Lhamo, a corporate employee in Thimphu said, “I genuinely think people will not take their responsibility seriously. Not all. Because I know there are people like me also who will take care and will continue to do so despite whether my neighbor does it or not. But having seen how complacent people are, I feel the efforts put in by the government will be overshadowed.”

She said after having read about developments from around the world, it’s the long Covid that is worrisome more than Covid.

“People are relaxed because they know recovery is soon, especially if you are healthy. What people don’t know is that after recovering also some symptoms stay and could be lifelong and that your health will be compromised,” she said.

Nidup, a civil servant, said although he does not believe in lockdowns, the government could impose some relaxtons otherwise people will not take the pandemic seriously.

“More than getting infected, people are worried about their survival,” he said.

“Some might not even go for testing even if they are symptomatic with the fear of being isolated or quarantined. Many people do not fear the virus unlike in the first case,” said Kinley, a businesswoman.

Tshering, a housewife, said people might be extra careful and with what is happening around the globe, people might have learned a lesson. 

Chencho Dema from Paro