Stronger Together Against COVID-19 In The land of Happiness
Bhutanese shows solidarity under the dynamic leadership of King Jigme Kheser Namgyal Wangchuck and the Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.
On the morning of 6 March, the isolated Kingdom of Bhutan reported the first case of coronavirus that tested positive from an American tourist travelling to Bhutan. The patient is a 76 years old man who entered the South Asian country on March 2nd 2020 and had previously been in India since Feb 18 with his 59-year-old partner.
The government announced two weeks restriction on all incoming tourists with immediate effect. Schools in Thimphu and Paro were shut down followed by schools in Wangdue Phodrang and Phuntsholing.
Although in the initial quarantine period, the whole nation and its people have come together to fight against the novel coronavirus that first broke in Wuhan, China.
1. Role of Leadership
With the guidance from His Majesty, The King who graciously spent the day at the ministry, detailed coordination and management of all the efforts are being carried out in response to detection of the first case of COVID-19 in-country. Bhutanese offered heartfelt thanks to His Majesty for personally guiding and boosting the morale of frontline agencies involved in managing the situation. Prime Minister Lotay Tshering has been tirelessly working around the clock despite the busy schedule. Such leaders of the country make people feel at ease to continue life as usual.
2. Free Hand Sanitizers & Mask
When the news of the virus broke out, people panicked. Next, it was the pharmacy that saw a maximum number of customers in the snaking queue. Later in the afternoon, demand and the supply of masks and sanitizers ran out of stock. To fulfil the need of people, the very next day, Prime Minister along with Dessuup volunteers started distributing free hand sanitisers at core locations. For those people who didn’t have any container, some officers volunteered to collect empty sanitizer containers and recycle. Moreover, few taxi drivers were spotted distributing masks to people in need for free. This happens only in Bhutan, the Buddhist kingdom where compassion is embedded into the Bhutanese lives.
In the coming weeks, they have plans to expand the service to other dzongkhags.
3. Spirit of Volunteerism
At times of such turmoil, the opposition party members and the stakeholders from the various private business firm also pledged to work in collaboration with the government. On social media, a group of teachers formed a volunteer group and pledged their allegiances and dedication to volunteer in any situation if the government and the public require any kind of helping hand. Some bookstores also opened up to distribute books to people imposed to be on quarantine period.
In a show of solidarity, all members of parliament voluntarily contribute their one month salary towards the COVID-19 response efforts.
4. No Rush for Groceries
Although on the day one of the coronavirus outbreak, panicked citizens rushed to stock in rations with the fear that they might need to quarantine, with the government's deliberation and assurance to the citizens that there will be no shortage of food, gas and petrol, people stepped back from hoarding. Hence, even with such an outbreak, the people of Bhutan are learning to remain calm.
5. Rituals and Beliefs
Coming from a religious society, rituals and mantras are invoked in people’s prayers. Zhung Drasang and religious institutions are performing prayers to keep Bhutanese safe from the coronavirus epidemic. Many Bhutanese showed their sympathy to friends and family of the American tourist who tested positive for COVID-19.
Today, Bhutanese people are praying hard and expressing sincere gratitude to all the health officials for sacrifices and staff of other relevant agencies involved and applaud them for their continued services beyond the call of duty. The initial day unfurled a lot of learning for every individual, as a nation and as a Bhutanese. The gestures and solidarity that Bhutanese are displaying during such a challenging period are exemplary to the rest of the world.