In the midst of the global epidemic of the new virus, we prayed that the virus should never come to Bhutan. We were almost sure that it wouldn’t come to Bhutan. Some people with fake account in FB, who are obviously not aware of the intricacies of the world economy, the complexities of the diplomatic relations and the interdependence of the nations, urged Bhutan to get into isolation banning tourism and closing all borders before the virus stroke, quarantining the whole nation and before the WHO declared it pandemic.
However, the first positive case emerged from the least expected place, Punakha, where the annual tshechu was conducted in full pomp and fury, where thousands gathered. The case emerging from there gave a grave shock to, a few of us, who were bit aware of the contagiousness of the virus. Those who could not make it to the tshechu were secretly happy and thanked their karma.
The assiduousness of the health workers was proved that night. Equipped with the knowledge of the least known virus all the primary contacts of the COVID19 patient were tracked down and tested. The negative result of the tests, yet again proved that how little we know about the virus? The fear of exponential increase in the infection cases subsided.
The people remained awestricken, when they heard that His Majesty the King was there in the vicinity of the first COVID19 case that wasn’t even the citizen of Bhutan. The compassion was so godly. Had it been any other king, well, you know it.
The care provided to the tourist, portrayed the policy of GNH in real. Despite the minimal facilities that we possessed comparing to the developed nations, the conditions of the patient improved. While many people might be blaming the tourist, while his relatives back home were apologetic for the bringing the virus to Bhutan, it was a blessing in disguise.
This single case exposed the innate nature of the people. There was a long queue to fill up the cars at the gas stations. Some people were stocking up rations. The mask and the hand sanitizers were all sold out. If some people took more than one, he might not have realized that if his neighbor gets infected, the virus would come next door. The government activated the emergency plan. Just before the declaration of the COVID19 a pandemic by the WHO, the single case helped us to be ready for the worst. The infection was taken seriously!
The fact that he could not cross the baazam towards the Punakha dzong and the fact that he could not roam around at Thimphu due to sickness, the reason for that, I leave it up to the readers to thank whom?
The hygiene and sanitation of the people will improve. It would also help in preservation of our culture, the “Chaglen” which was unsuspectingly overtaken by handshake, would prevail over the handshake.
The patient was air lifted by an air ambulance back to his country, USA (on 13 Mar 2020). He helped us to be prepared, to not to be complacent with the outbreak of the new virus, he in fact inoculated the whole nation to face the virus should the outbreak happens here and to deal it in a better manner learning from the countries who already had the fight. Nothing could have geared up the nation in the manner he did it. I just hope and pray that he recovers and be back here when again in perfect health and during perfect conditions. When we can laugh about the COVID19, just like we laugh about deadly diseases of the past that were eradicated from the face of the earth.