In a stark contrast to the ghostly town appearance after the first COVID-19 case was reported, Thimphu city is once again bustling with activity as the people lose their fear and social distancing is not being maintained despite advice from the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
There are many students including those who have returned from schools abroad moving around in the town. The crowd also consists of those people who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 pandemic.
20-year-old Zam is a student studying in New Delhi, India. She said that she underwent an additional 10 days of self-quarantine after completing the facility quarantine period after returning home. This is her second time coming out to town and she is diligent with the use of a facemask.
“I do not come out to town unless I have something urgent to do. I came out today to buy medicines for my sick grandmother, as mom and dad have to go office. I came alone leaving my siblings at home even though they demanded to come along,” she said.
She also said that she tries to avoid crowded places as far as possible, and prefers to go out solo rather than in a group. She takes an extra care of her sick granny who is 83 years old.
Tshering, 28, was working in Kuwait, and had actually come home for a vacation before the outbreak of first COVID-19 case in Bhutan. She was unable to go back to Kuwait as the borders were sealed and airports closed.
“I am very happy and feeling safe under the guidance of His Majesty and the government. They were prepared always, which is why we can go around without any fear,” she said.
She said the fear of COVID-19 is lost already because she feels totally safe, but she makes sure to use the facemask, sanitizer and to wash her hands frequently.
“The town is getting crowded now because there is no local transmission, and those who were tested positive are imported cases”, she added.
A class XII student studying in Kelki Higher Secondary School said “I came to town today for a birthday treat gathering, and we are 10 in number. My parents’ have advised me to wear a facemask whenever I go out, but I don’t use as it’s a bit suffocating. Also 95 percent of people in town don’t use the facemask. That indicates we are safe,” he added.
According to the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), more and more people are becoming less bothered about the safety precautions as things head for normalcy. RBP also faces harassment and has a difficult time controlling and monitoring the crowd and ensuring social distancing is maintained. Shops, restaurants and entertainment centers can now stay open till 9 pm.
“With the new normal, Thimphu has become crowded compared to before. Now more people will be loitering in town after 7 pm, and the possibility of crime happening can go up. Until now the crime has gone down due to early closer of shops,” said a RBP official.