Lockdown blues: Prolonged stay-home orders causes anxiety

SONAM PENJOR | Thimphu

The anxiety caused by the long bouts of lockdown has made life difficult for many as the virus transmission and subsequent blackouts continue to persist.

Even as the Covid‐19 pandemic spread across the globe over the past two years, many countries have imposed lockdowns as stay-at-home orders to mitigate its spread, and Bhutan is no exception to this rule.

However, many are questioning the appropriateness of governments imposing lockdowns and the general efficacy of lockdowns and quarantines. Many say that despite the lockdown, the country is seeing continued community cases leading to an extension of lockdown.

A shopkeeper based in Pasakha said many are exhausted from the continued lockdowns and the steps that are taken to protect people like social distancing. He said that his business is also on an all-time low because of the prolonged lockdowns.

In addition, he said that with the continual lockdowns he is worried that the goods in his store may expire which would be a great loss to small businessmen like him.

Similarly, a vegetable vendor at Centenary Farmers Market in Thimphu, Kinley also shared that the pandemic has hampered his business to a large extent. He said that unlike in the past years, their businesses are dented and people are suffering due to a lack of constant income.

A taxi operator, Sangay said, “My economic situation is not good and I struggle to meet all the basic needs of my family. I buy basic items with little savings. However, it will be difficult for us to sustain if the lockdown prolongs.”

He said that he doesn’t have any other source of income and had to spend all his savings to meet his expenses. He said that he even resorted to borrowing money from friends and family.

He added, “The psychological and emotional stress for people like us is getting heavier because of the prolonged lockdown.”

A teacher from Paro Dzongkhag opined their household experienced an increase in consumption of food because of the prolonged stay-home orders. “This increase in food consumption coupled with an increase in the price of food items,” he said.

While prices for basic household commodities also saw a sharp spike after the pandemic, he said that the unabated inflation has hit low-income people the hardest.

He further said that because of the prolonged lockdown, preparation and coaching for grade X and XII for the board examinations had been hampered badly. However, online teaching and tests are regularly conducted for students.

He added that the long chain of discomfort and losses for students will continue due to the deferment of reopening of the next academic year 2022.

A teacher from Bumthang Dzongkhag functioning in self-containment mode said the policy of the government to function in self-containment mode may resort to domestic issues as they can’t go out of the school campus.

“We were not allowed to go beyond the campus even if we had urgent problems at home. We don’t have any choice even for meals and we have to take whatever food they serve us,” he said. 

A researcher and consultant based in Thimphu said that the work at hand has gone down drastically as there is no project or government outsourcing to the consultancies. “The availability of funds with the government had to be diverted to contain Covid-19 spread which is a national concern.”

Meanwhile, a teacher from Wangsel Institute for the Deaf in Paro, said they couldn’t conduct a new normal curriculum (NNC) writer’s workshop which was due on 15 January, last month. He added the institute will be implementing the old curriculum, which is adapted and modified, and will be continued until NNC is in place. 

A resident from Paro said, “I experienced the same problems in all lockdowns. Any challenges faced during the previous lockdown, feedback should have been considered but the same thing repeats during the current lockdown. The task force should look at viable solutions.”