When the first case of the COVID-19 came to Bhutan, the initial problem was excessive fear and panic as people resorted to panic buying, but the bright side was that people stayed indoors and avoided social gatherings.
However, the problem is now one of complacency as people lose their fear and start heading back into normalcy.
The vegetable markets and towns are seeing increased traffic and more crowds. The hospitals are getting crowded again. Despite directives, people, and particularly youth, can be seen gathering in larger groups.
In the first few days, most faces were covered behind a face mask, but now even that sign of caution has been thrown to the wind as people walk around openly with some even openly coughing and sneezing without a mask.
Our officials are supposed to lead by example but they themselves are setting the worst examples having meetings or functions in tightly packed halls with large numbers of people with all windows and doors shut and no face mask in sight.
Any hidden COVID-19 viruses would delight in such conditions which are highly favorable for its spread, as many international examples have shown.
Ordinary people are also increasingly willing to flout social distancing and safety norms.
There are also a growing tribe who have started grumbling about the ‘restrictions’ and feel the government is over reacting and want things to go back to ‘normal’.
However, the situation is anything but normal as Bhutan due to good leadership led by His Majesty has only bought itself some time.
We must use this time wisely to prepare for the inevitable local or even community transmission that will come to Bhutan.
In fact, the measures that are slowly being abandoned or disregarded by ordinary Bhutanese are the very ones that will protect us against local and community transmission.
Some youth may feel invincible given the proclivity of the virus to attack the old or the weak, but emerging data shows that the virus even kills the young and healthy as it can cause healthy immune systems to go on an overkill -that harms the body more.
The international scenario is still very grim; India which is seeing an increasing number of cases despite the lockdown is nearing the end of its lockdown that will put pressure on our southern borders; and now large numbers of Bhutanese are coming back from abroad.
We have to remain on our guard as this virus does not forgive even the slightest mistake.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”