On World Health Day

Yesterday was the World Health Day. The international community observed it solemnly as a new health crisis, the novel coronavirus, has taken the world by surprise.

The Day’s theme this year was “Support nurses and midwives,” as the Covid-19 pandemic has put nurses and other health workers on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis. In Bhutan, we observed the day with a different theme that calls for togetherness, unity, solidarity and compassion in our fight against Covid-19.

Experiences worldwide had shown that the best weapon to fight the Covid-19 battle is collective effort. Thus the theme at home is most appropriate. There is no medicine or vaccine as of now. Prevention is seen as the best cure. And to prevent it, we need to be united.

We are fighting it well. If unity and solidarity is key, it is there to the extent that the crisis has brought out the best in our people. What is an encouraging sign, everybody is aware of the approach.

Because it is a health crisis, not many can contribute even if they want to. It is frustrating. Therefore, a farmer decides to offer his saving from the sale of vegetables, villagers contribute rice and vegetables and some are offering to cook for those in quarantine. At the other end we have hoteliers offering their property to be used, businesses, big and small contribute from cash to health equipment and vehicles. All these are happening when the government has not even asked for help.

If this is encouraging, those affected with the virus are telling their story thanking the King, the government and all those involved in the fight against Covid-19. When privacy of affected people has to be protected to prevent stigmatisation, among others, those in quarantine and even in isolation wards are boldly sharing their experience to encourage each other and those worried about getting infected.

To put into context, we have five reported cases. One has recovered and others are recovering. Recovery rates even in worst affected countries are increasing every day while fatality rates are dropping. Coronavirus is not a killer disease, as many may have misconstrued.

For those who are on the forefront, the appreciation and gratitude came way before the World Health Day. The nurses and doctors have become our heroes. They take it as their responsibility, a call to duty, but the appreciation is different from the people because they risk their lives. Then we have other volunteers who are contributing in all ways- from entertaining to teaching to guarding our porous and treacherous borders.

We have not reported a new case in the last week. The curve has flattened and there is no evidence of community infection. All these indicate that we have done well and done it together. There is reassurance from the government headed by a prime minister with medical background and a health minster who is a public health expert. The government is confident and so shall be the people.

Above all, we have leadership. Even as some complain of the quality of food or spread fake news, His Majesty The King is touring the country overseeing preparedness at the national level.  We can derive confidence and encouragements from the leadership.

As a Buddhist nation, even as we are worried about our own problems, we paused to offer our prayers to those who lost loved ones and those who are risking their lives on the frontline.

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