Time to rethink and change the way govt. manages pandemic: Opposition Party

STAFF REPORTER | Thimphu

Taking lessons and experiences from the management of the pandemic thus far, the Opposition Party vehemently feels it is time to rethink and change the way to manage the pandemic as well as run the national affairs of governance, particularly keeping the economy afloat.

According to a press release from the Opposition Party, it is partly because looking at the outbreaks of the virus being caused by similar loopholes and lapses, people are facing similar challenges and tribulations during every lockdown.

“We feel the government has not learnt much lessons from the past outbreaks and lockdowns which made no significant improvements in our strategies and methods of pandemic management from the first to third lockdowns,” it stated.

The opposition added that the sooner they learn and innovate the Covid-19 strategies and put the wheel of the economy back into running, the better it will be for the nation and people.

In view of the ongoing developments, the opposition recommends the government consider re-strategizing Covid-19 management and lockdown, and to keep lockdowns short and effective.

The press release further states, “We concur that lockdown is the best strategy to contain and combat the virus. However, the longer it goes it becomes detrimental to the national economy, private sector, and individual citizens.” 

The opposition said low-income people and daily wage workers are hit the hardest and that the government must look into ways of keeping lockdowns short and effective. 

For this purpose, it states that the government should innovate strategies and methods of managing future outbreaks. 

The press release further adds that it should come up with a comprehensive new management plan based on multi-pronged and integrated mechanisms of expediting vaccination of children, administering mass booster dose, and efficient contact tracing.

Among others, it also recommends earlier mass screening, revisiting quarantine and isolation mechanisms, changing the lockdown methods with minimal disruptions, and based on other experiences gained thus far. 

“Otherwise, we should promote sound health protocols at workplaces and let the economy and business get back on the wheel,” it states.

It further states that the confusions and ordeals faced by stranded people are not new and have hardly changed from the second lockdown. 

“The Government must come up with clear and uniformly interpreted, understood and applied procedures throughout all dzongkhags, of managing such cases,” the opposition said.

The party also recommends the government streamline healthcare services particularly for critical services for co-morbid patients. 

It states that one of the immediate impacts of lockdown is on healthcare services, from inpatient to outpatient to critical patient care services. 

“It was raised in the past too that due to frequent and prolonged lockdowns, more people could die due to challenges in access to health services than of the virus,” the press release elaborates.

The press release further states that it is suspected that some urgent and critical patients awaiting referrals or operations or treatments have succumbed to death due to delays in medical services during both second and third lockdowns. 

Further, except for one such isolation ward in Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), there are no separate isolation facilities for Covid-19 positive patients with chronic comorbidities needing critical treatments in regional and other hospitals. 

It adds that such a state of unpreparedness even after almost two years of the outbreak of the pandemic is unacceptable.

“We strongly recommend the Government to review, streamline and prepare the health services throughout the country, starting with national referral and regional referral hospitals on a priority basis, in keeping with the needs of the changing circumstances imposed by the pandemic and emerging requirements,” the opposition reiterated.

The opposition also remains deeply concerned by the recent incident of the death of a 34-year-old woman, a positive comorbid patient referred from Phuentsholing Hospital to JDWNRH, who is reported to have succumbed due to logistical and medical negligence. 

What is baffling is that the press release states that the government had covered up and misled the nation on the circumstances of her death until the facts were revealed by her family members, and the government is yet to provide any explanation on the incident.

The Opposition Party also called upon the government to provide full explanations to the nation on this most unfortunate incident and embrace accountability and put measures to avoid such mishaps in the future.

Similarly, the opposition also recommends strategizing the revival of the economy to put it back in running mode and on the track of progress.

“Our economy has been going through the worst spell in the history of our nation with tumbling economic indicators, from growth rate to per capita income to employment rate to ballooning debt in the last two years,” it said.

It further states that in tandem with battling the pandemic, it is high time that the government should give serious attention to the economy too.

The press release adds that any further delay in reviving and putting the economy back on track could cause a debilitating and irreversible impact on the potential of bouncing back in the future.

However, despite this dire situation, the government is yet to come up with any clear and concrete plan to revive the economy. “This is at the least naive, if not irresponsible, and is deeply worrying.”

“The opposition urges the government to formulate a comprehensive economic recovery plan including specific revival plans for key economic sectors like tourism, hotels, and hospitality, construction, industries, SMEs, exports, among others and accorded the highest priority to employment generation,” it said.

Further, the opposition pointed out that the cabinet members who are not actively engaged in Covid-19 management could productively invest their time and efforts in streamlining these measures.