Despite the 62 registered cases of COVID-19, and with 19 active cases in the country, most people are now resuming their outdoor activities without the fear of COVID-19. Many have started to crowd everywhere despite awareness programs and with constant monitoring by the volunteers.
The people working on the frontline shared that many people are now either taking COVID-19 lightly as they think it is curable or they are relaxed as there is no local transmission so far. A single local transmission case would mean that the entire effort put in by His Majesty the King, the government and other relevant agencies would go in vain.
Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) in Thimphu has started receiving huge numbers of shoppers for the past week. It is becoming difficult for the DeSuups, Bhutan Red Cross Society and scouts to control the crowd, especially during the weekends.
A DeSuup coordinator at CFM market said that the fear of the virus is waning even with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Bhutan. He said the situation was different when the first COVID-19 case was reported, as people were careful and ventured out in few numbers. However, things are now getting back to normal and overcrowding is a big concern.
“Each time that they come for shopping, we ask them to use a facemask, Druk Trace App, and to minimize coming for frequent shopping errands. But they a turn deaf ear to us. On some occasions, they feel that we are harassing them. It is challenging because there are very few people who follow the safety instructions,” he added.
He also said that it should be okay if just one person per family comes for the weekly shopping, but these days, they come out shopping with the whole family to just buy a kilo of chili. It would be better if they do bulk shopping enough for one week so that they need not have to come again and again. Nonetheless, the situation is different, he said, adding that they are requesting the public to refrain from bringing their whole family to CFM.
A volunteer said, “We advice them but it’s disheartening to see them coming with their old parents and small children. Out of worry, we advise them but they take it in another way.”
A scout volunteer said that people tend take advantage of them because they are young. The people also refuse to listen to their instructions.
He said that it is challenging to give out the safety instructions to the people but they are doing it with good intentions. “I have a fear of COVID-19 but volunteering here is a little thing that I can do for the country. People should know this and support us rather than thinking we are too young to be volunteers,” he added.
An official from RBP said that they are strictly monitoring the crowd, and they are patrolling the city as usual. He said that the movement of people in the town is getting back to normal till the shops are closed at 7 pm.
Even the vehicle movement has not reduced. The police said they can only advice and sensitize people not to move around after a certain period of time and to not go around in groups, he said.
“We ask them to be home as far as possible. Whenever we come across any individual during patrolling we advocate on the associated risks to them. That is only the thing we can do,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pema Zam who came for vegetable shopping at CFM carrying her 3-year-old son on her back said that she is well aware of the risk of COVID-19, but she is left with no option but to bring her son along with her.
“I know what His Majesty The King and government is doing for us, and I feel lucky for that matter. However, I am a single mother and have 2 children and an old mother. I can’t leave my son under their care as my mother is too old to look after my son, and as my eldest daughter is too small to babysit him,” she said.