Lockdowns: the last straw?

The country is currently undergoing its fifth lockdown ever since the virus breached into the nation’s borders in March 2020.  The health ministry then saw the wisdom in putting an abrupt halt to all tourism-related activities and sealed our entry points in the bordering districts, including the only international airport at Paro.

While the lockdowns has been assumed to have had a colossal effect in curbing the virus’ from spreading among our communities, the price the nation paid is also as vast. The tourism sector is the worst hit and thousands still languish in a state of joblessness and disrepair while there seem to be no respite at mere sight. Our SOEs and financial institutions are also undergoing the toughest phase of their operational endeavours as a majority has reported of dwindling profits and irreparable repercussions.

The introduction of the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu and the Desuung integrated programme have been the two single largest reforms in recent memory that have had a huge impact in curbing the repercussions of the pandemic. However, the strain on the state’s coffers has been equally intensifying as billions of ngultrums have been spent to help keep these programs afloat. His Majesty has promised that the DGRK initiative will continue till June this year and, if need be, might continue until such a time the country is able to reach a normal state of affairs.

Nonetheless, with numerous lockdowns implemented in the country, including the six-month closure of border town Phuentsholing last year, the visible strains of the long hiatus are beginning to show up as communities are increasingly getting burdened and exasperated that they are now beginning to question the effectiveness of these measures.

If the numerous gossips in social media circles are to hold any water, it is widely argued that the strains of the lockdowns have hit the lower rung of the social ladder the hardest. While daily wagers and small business operators are finding it difficult to even cover expenses for three decent meals a day – save for the DGRK that has come as a saving grace for many.

It is stated that civil servants are the most content with the long overhauls from work giving them ample time to revel in with their family while they have the additional luxury of not having to worry about monthly payments. Big business are growing bigger as it is seen as an opportunity to make hay of the trying times and pocket larger profits while the common man panics – hence the deafening silence and apathy from these segments. 

The omicron variant, if international sources are to be heeded, spreads like wildfire and cannot be contained through lockdowns. Bhutan has experimented with these draconian measures only to see cases surging in numbers, and despite the fact our populace having the luxury of getting jabbed with booster doses too.

For the common man, the way forward seems riddled with more testing times. It is only apt if the government weighs the pangs of the poor and the downtrodden before initiating these lockdowns, and especially when it is evident that these draconian measures are taking a huge toll on them.   

Let courtesy and wisdom prevail above mere political theatrics and lopsided tenacities.