Bhutan’s Pandemic Success Story
What has Bhutan taught the world? None would have ever imagined that a country of Bhutan’s stature would be able to exemplify herself as a Covid-19 success story. Bhutan, a small country in South Asia, has a population of 7,48,931 as of 2020. (National Statistics Bureau, 2020) The novel Covid-19 pandemic has shattered the world and the world mortality rate has been rising by the minute. The latest Covid-19 statistics in Bhutan(June 2nd, 2021) depicted 1639 confirmed cases, 330 active cases, 1308 recovered cases and 1 death till date. (Ministry of Health, 2021) The mortality rate in Bhutan is evidence in itself of great significance. However, the constant effort of the personnels in Bhutan, involved in building a solid Covid Response Strategy, cannot go unnoticed.
The first Covid-19 case identified in Bhutan was an American man who had travelled to Bhutan from Assam in India.The man returned back safely to his Nation and has fully recovered. He even thanked His Majesty and the other designation personnel for the immense hospitality, compassion and care.
Bhutan was on her toes after this case was confirmed. The borders got sealed and the entry of tourists into Bhutan was restricted. Moreover, a strict 21 days quarantine programme was introduced for Bhutanese coming to Bhutan from a foreign land. People who had to travel from the sensitive areas to other districts within Bhutan, had to undergo a mandatory 14 days quarantine.
The declaration of these strategies was informed via National Television. The Mighty King of Bhutan and Prime Minister, Mr Lotay Tshering has been appearing in Bhutan Broadcasting Service, the country’s first television channel, on many occasions.
They highlighted the importance of ‘Our Gyenkhu’, translated as ‘Our Responsibility’. Media played a massive role in transmitting messages to the general public regarding social distancing norms and the necessity to frequently wash hands. During lockdowns, the citizens demonstrated immense cooperation to sit inside the safety of their homes and in turn, keep each other safe. This action was a reflection of unquestionable loyalty to the King who had been putting his life on the line for the sake of Bhutan and the Bhutanese.
Grants and loans were provided to individuals and groups to facilitate the growth in production for the benefit of the citizens. With shooting unemployment rate, the Kidu-relief fund initiated by the King provided relief funds to individuals who were permanently laid off from their jobs. Bhutan also launched the ‘Druk Trace App’ where the whereabouts of a person would be immediately traced after scanning the phone onto a QR or quick response code. The app helped in tracing back contacts during the time of outbreaks.
Other unemployed youths joined the Desuung programme. The Desuups’ contribution towards the Covid Response in Bhutan is magnanimous. While the country suffered two National lockdowns, the dessups were deployed in various regions of the country to maintain peace, order and safety amidst tumultuous times. His Majesty himself has been taking initiative to travel around the country and preside over Covid-related matters himself.
Recently, after getting the Covishield
vaccine from India, Bhutan inoculated 64% of the adult population in 1200 vaccination centres.(Bagchi, 2021)
This vaccination rate was the fastest compared to any other country in the world.
These are some of the important covid response strategies that have been assisting Bhutan to combat this deadly virus. The implementation of the Covid-19 strategy was successful also because of the expertise of the Prime Minister who was a doctor by profession before taking over the reins of the country. Health Minister Dechen Wangmo’s contribution was vital as well. (Dormer, 2021)
In addition, the team-work and sheer grit to fight this pandemic between the policy makers, scientists, epidemiologists and the general public has been playing a massive role in battling this ‘invisible enemy’. The battle is not over, until it’s finally over so everyone is recommended to follow Covid 19 protocols and move ahead with cautiousness.
Dormer, W. (6th of April, 2021), Bhutan’s Covid-19 Response Protects those in Poverty, https://www.borgenmagazine.com/bhutans-covid-19-response/
Ministry of Health(3rd of June, 2021) , Royal Government of Bhutan, http://www.moh.gov.bt/national-situational-update-on-covid-19-73/
National Statistics Bureau. Towards Supporting Evidence-Based Decision Making. https://www.nsb.gov.bt/publications/insights/bhutan-at-a-glance/
Written by Vyas