Bhutan After the COVID-19 Crisis
Living with the Coronavirus
On March 5, 2020, a tourist tested positive for COVID-19 in Thimphu. Sensing the growing threat of the pandemic, quarantine was introduced for all travellers entering Bhutan from March 14. Bhutanese schools were closed on March 18 and the international border was sealed on March 19. By the end of March, Bhutan was treating four people infected with COVID-19.
Thus began a surreal year. Physical distancing, face masks, hand sanitisers, contact tracing, became a social norm as the government stocked food and assisted in the distribution. August was a taxing month with a nearly month-long lockdown as we saw the first cases outside quarantine facilities – the much-dreaded local transmission. Workplaces, offices, and businesses closed. Tensions and stress led to health problems including mental health.
As countries across the globe suffered socio-economic and political upheavals with millions of COVID-19 cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths. The Secretary General of the United Nations defined the situation as a “developmental disaster”. Governance was transformed as the “normality” we knew was dissipated by the unprecedented menace.