August 11, 2020, Thimphu.
So the inevitable has happened. Nobody wished this but deep down we all knew it was inevitable.
We are now in a complete lockdown – nationwide.
It is so quiet in Kawajangsa. Except for the laughter of my neighbor’s daughter, Thimphu is as silent as a cemetery. Even the wind has stopped blowing and the birds living on the trees of the Folk Heritage Museum have decided to quieten too. We are all holed up.
The million dollar question: What next?
The late American journalist-professor, Norman Cousins, once famously said, optimism doesn’t wait on facts. So while the government collects the facts, which will take some time, and since anxiety has gripped the nation, let me run through some optimism exercise. We start by asking a hard question: What was the worst case scenario?
When the news of the lockdown appeared on my phone, my immediate thought was, “Hope it is not someone in Gelephu who contracted the virus from across the border and was wandering around unaware and has spread all over”. This would have been devastating. We would have what they call a Super-spreader. Instead what we have is a case of someone who was in quarantine and tested negative continuously, tested positive once and then tested negative and then released. And then tested positive again during a review check-up.
The next worst-case scenario is the possibility that she was reinfected – a pattern seen in many countries. Meaning she was infected outside the country, recovered on her own in Bhutan and reinfected after she left the quarantine. However, according to local medical practitioners I talked to, the reinfection theory can be ruled out too, if the studies from other countries are to go by. They pointed out that, awaiting test results of the contacts groups, this case could indicate towards dead viruses that are getting removed by the body, a process called virus-shedding, which sometimes shows up in subsequent tests.
Hence, it is not all gloom and doom. We could be potentially looking at case of dead viruses that showed up during the review test. In any case, we have someone whose medical records and whose travel history is known. I am not a health expert but I am optimistic that she (not she but the virus she was carrying) didn’t infect others. It is not case of a superspreader, for sure.
Coming to the woman, she has all my sympathy and compassion. It is not her fault. She didn’t jump the quarantine. And she visited the flu clinic as told. Maybe she could have been more serious with DrukTrace but this is another issue altogether. (Neither the developers of the DrukTrace nor the users have been serious about it.) Where we need to draw our attention to is not lose our sense of humanity – even when we are going through the a crisis.
Most importantly, as we wait for the health workers to do their job, let’s not lose our optimism. Let’s remind ourselves and feel (really feel) the hard works of our King and our leaders and the blessings of our divinities to keep us safe. Let’s not take these for granted. And whatever happens, we know we were in the safest of hands.
Maybe I am wrong but it doesn’t help to panic or be pessimistic. Or maybe, on the flipside, we really needed this lockdown to get a valuable lesson – or to avoid something worse. We never know