Opening up Cautiously

After the second dose there is pressure building up from the public for various relaxations, and it is likely that the government will bring in some reasonable relaxations.

One major change already visible is that Phuentsholing will no longer go into long lockdowns if a case comes up.

The Finance Ministry and Economic Affairs Ministry are drawing up a detailed short term plan to enhance economic activities in various fields by bringing about more relaxations.

There is also political pressure growing on the government over livelihood issues with Phuentsholing being a good example.

The government must be guided by science and plenty of caution in going ahead with relaxations given the raging delta virus.

On the ground, it is important to note that the 1,000 bedded temporary quarantine centers and 2,500 bedded permanent quarantine centers are an indication that the government will allow in labourers following due safety protocol.

The government will reduce the quarantine period to two weeks and may make trade easier.

However, at the same time four things are a must.

The first is that the 7-day quarantine must continue at least until the pandemic is over. The combination of the three-week quarantine and the 7-day quarantine has saved the country from mass COVID spread and deaths.

The second aspect is that the MoH must still have a good surveillance system on the ground so that it can pick up cases at an early stage.

The third and perhaps the most important is for ordinary Bhutanese to know that even full vaccination does not guarantee one protection against infection and the bigger danger is giving the virus to the non-vaccinated or vulnerable people.

So COVID protocols have to be strictly followed by people from masking to social distancing to ventilating.

In the longer run it looks like COVID-19 will turn endemic from pandemic to remain with us. This is where the fourth point comes in which is not letting the foot off the vaccine move as our aim must be to vaccinate 100 percent of our population and also think of booster doses seriously.

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Alexander Pope

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