COVID is back

The news of a new variant B 1.1.529 found in increasing numbers in South Africa and also other countries is causing global worry, because it is likely to be more transmissible than Delta.

For a long time, the richer countries were warned to do more to help Africa and other poor countries by ramping up vaccine production, and distributing it for free or at low cost, but this call was not heeded.

The richer countries essentially turned their backs and took care of only national interests, which has now backfired as the virus is an international problem.

The new variant makes it clear that the world is not getting out of the COVID pandemic until we can vaccinate each and every country in significant numbers, and also take other non medical interventions like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and ventilating well.

Nothing is certain yet, but if the virus is as infectious as it is claimed to be then it may only be a matter of time before it spreads in our neighbourhood and then tries to make its way into Bhutan.

We can remember the long lockdowns and the many cases last time around, especially in the south, which was caused by the Delta variant.

The advantage we have this time is better vaccination coverage and also improved systems from the lessons learnt earlier.

However, this new variant makes its appearance at a time when many ordinary Bhutanese have lost their fear of the virus and society as whole is growing very carefree.

Many of the requests to not crowd and to follow SOPs are not being heeded as people crowd and gather, and there is a small but growing numbers who are not wearing masks.

It is important to remember that the new variant may very well have an enhanced ability for immune escape and so we should not be overtly confident with our vaccination status.

The choice for ordinary Bhutanese is to start taking things seriously and follow the basic safety norms or risk long lockdowns and disruption again.

Distrust and caution are the parents of security.
Benjamin Franklin

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