“While serving and traveling with His Majesty I have heard some advice which I would like to share with the people today,” said Lyonchhen Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering.
Lyonchhen said His Majesty in all his meetings said that the most important thing is to protect the lives of the people.
He said His Majesty closely follows all the international COVID developments, including how countries are doing and what experts are saying.
“His Majesty has said that while the Omicron virus is milder than before in its symptoms, the real reason why infected people are not experiencing strong symptoms or falling gravely ill is due to the two or three doses of vaccines. So in that sense the vaccine has been very useful,” said the PM.
He said His Majesty has said that as the virus comes and spreads the only option to control it is lockdowns, equivalent to how drinking water is the only option to quench thirst.
“For those facing difficulties, the Royal Kidu is available which has been given to 52,000 people till date through monthly payments of Nu 12,000, Nu 10,000, Nu 8,000 and Nu 7,000. Around 7,000 children are getting monthly installments of Nu 800 each. For those who cannot buy goods during lockdown the Kidu buys them goods and reaches it to their doorstep,” said the PM.
He said even then people face difficulties like running the household, domestic issues, mental etc which His Majesty is aware about.
“His Majesty said the pandemic comes in waves every three to four months and each time it mutates itself into something else, and at the same time our strategy to tackle it cannot be the same every time and needs to adapt according to the situation,” said the PM.
The PM said Phuentsholing they have done mass testing and for those where positive cases are detected they have asked the contacts to not come out. Phuentsholing. is now in the process of unlocking.
Phuentsholing has had around 600 cases within the last one month.
The PM said His Majesty appreciates that Phuentsholing plays an important role of getting imports into Bhutan and the difficulty faced by the people.
“His Majesty said that if the virus is not controlled then it will infect all local residents numbering 22,000 people. His Majesty has commanded that the main RIGSS head office be converted into a hospital with additional doctors from Thimphu and the Southern COVID-19 Taskforce can relocate its office to the Royal Guesthouse,” said the PM.
“His Majesty has also commanded that the difficulties of the people must be solved too,” said the PM.
The PM said the main danger of the virus is for the comorbid. He said while Omicron is considered milder it can kill and Bhutan has large numbers of comorbid people who are vulnerable.
He said there are people who are even willing to make a lot of sacrifices to stop the virus until the pandemic goes away globally. There are also people who criticize on social media saying that only lockdowns are being done.
“His Majesty said that the people generally follow the instructions and advice given to them on the dos and don’ts, but a few who are facing a lot of difficulty express themselves and this is okay too. In fact when we feel low with the comments His Majesty raises our spirits and says to not take it personally,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen said there are countries that are doing away with restrictions and facemasks.
“His Majesty asked us to study this so that if it goes well there then we can also look at replicating it here, but all these countries are having a difficult time with more deaths and cases and people not fitting in hospitals . In the case of Bhutan even if we get 100 to 200 more patients we will have a tough time as we do not have their medical capacity,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen said His Majesty is concerned not only about the comorbid people and the senior citizens, but also the children under 12 who are not vaccinated.
He said in many countries including Bhutan now children are getting infected in large numbers.
“If we lose even one child to the virus then His Majesty will be very disappointed. His Majesty had commanded us to get the vaccines for children at whatever the efforts or the resources. The Health Ministry and Foreign Ministry have been on the task and we are getting the vaccines in by 28 February,” said the PM.
The vaccines for ages 5 to 11 will reach by 28 February 2022. Within 10 days the first dose will be given. The second dose will be given by April 5 or 6. Then around a week after the second dose the schools will reopen in mid April 2022 when the immune systems of children are fully activated. The schools were originally supposed to open on March 1.
He said there is a big difference between how the vaccinated and unvaccinated respond to the virus.
Lyonchhen said the government is aware about the economic difficulties caused by the virus.
“Once the virus becomes endemic as and when declared by WHO then we can open up all restrictions and not have lockdowns and His Majesty said that the economy will recover quickly at that time,” said the PM.
Lyonchhen wished His Majesty a very happy birthday on behalf of the people.
“Normally, every year, we have celebartions to celebrate His Majesty’s Birthday but yesterday His Majesty commanded that there should be no celebartions given how people are worried and in distress due to the virus. The 20 Dzongkhags have offered butter lamps and moenlam instead,” said the PM.