Keeping Bhutan safe

A 72-hour lockdown has been imposed on Phuentsholing’s “Megazone 2”. This is terrible news, as it has been only a few days since a 62-day lockdown that all of Phuentsholing has had to endure was being gradually lifted. Imagine the relief when residents of Phuentsholing were informed that the lockdown was being lifted after they had been confined to their homes for two whole months. Now imagine their anguish when residents of the core area of Phuentsholing were informed that they will have to undergo another lockdown.

This is the nature of the covid virus. It spreads insidiously and can infect even the most careful. And the delta variant which has entered some places along our border with India is especially dangerous. That’s why Phuentsholing is still struggling to stop the spread of covid. That’s also why Jomosangkha experienced an outbreak recently, and why parts of Samtse are still scrambling to contain an outbreak.

Now if the delta variant of the coronavirus is so contagious, it should have spread to the rest of the country as well. And it should have hit Thimphu particularly hard by now. After all, the capital city is our biggest and the most populated. Yet Thimphu is safe. There hasn’t been a covid case there since the lockdown in January this year. There was a false alarm recently that prompted the government to impose a two-day lockdown, but after more than 2000 negative tests Thimphu was confirmed to be free of covid, for the moment at least.

So why hasn’t the recent strain of covid spread to Thimphu yet? There is one big reason: the one-week quarantine that is mandatory for anyone and everyone traveling from the so-called “high-risk” areas to the rest of the country. Yes, this is inconvenient for our people living in the high-risk areas – a strip of land all along our border with India – but their sacrifices, along with the hard work and dedication of our frontline workers, is what has kept the rest of Bhutan relatively safe. Without this rule, the deadly virus would have spread throughout our country.

If the one-week quarantine requirement is the reason that most of Bhutan is safe, there is one person who has made it happen: our Beloved King. When covid first threatened to enter Bhutan, His Majesty the King appeared on live TV to announce that we would have to close our international borders. When covid cases crossed our borders in spite of the best efforts of our frontline workers, the area along our border with India was deemed to be risky prompting the 7-day quarantine rule for travelers to other parts of the country. And then His Majesty toured every part of the “risky” areas, time and time again, personally leading our fight against covid: directing strategy, supervising institutional arrangements, motivating frontline workers and comforting residents.

In the last 15 months, His Majesty the King has toured our borders no less than 15 times. And every visit has ended with the mandatory quarantine. Even today His Majesty is in quarantine having returned from yet another tour, this time involving an arduous trek to personally patrol our remote borders and visits to several places that are struggling to contain the spread of covid.

This is what keeps us safe. This is what keeps life in Thimphu as normal as the present circumstances could allow. We are fortunate indeed. But we must do our individual bits too. We must remain alert and vigilant. We must follow all safety protocols. We must support our fellow citizens living along our southern borders. We must applaud our frontline workers. And we must offer prayers for His Majesty the King’s good health and wellbeing. 

 

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  1. You are a real inspiration. First noticed you from the TED video on YouTube. It was so much inspiring. Thank you sir. Much power to you from Nepal.

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