Bhutan Struggling To Fight COVID-19

Picture: CDC

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has risen to 280 in Bhutan, yet no death has been reported so far.

The government, led by a doctor, is grappling with scarce resources and infrastructures to fight the pandemic. The country being closer to the epicenter in China makes Bhutan a susceptible host to the virus.

According to KuenselOnline, the national daily newspaper, the first case of the virus hit Bhutan on March 6, 2020, when an American tourist was found infected with Coronavirus. Some of the border towns including Pheuntsholing are declared red-zone. Gelephu, another major town, has a similar trend of increasing cases.

According to BBS, the most recent case was found in 32 years old woman in Phuentsholing. That news prompted residents to rush for shopping anticipating the second wave of lockdown. The country is just easing after 21 days of lockdown announced following a positive case of COVID-19 in a woman in Gelephu.

Currently, there are eight reported cases, six of them being the front line employees at the border gate. A citizen in the hinterlands of Kalikhola said, “ I have not been able to reach my disabled children studying in Lamoizingkha middle secondary school due to lockdown and monsoon rain. I need to fetch them food supply and house rent.”

Like Nepal, Bhutan was reasonably unprepared to face the pandemic. The effect on the economy is paramount, especially when the majority of the development workers come from India. The tourism industry is hit hard when tourists canceled their flights to Bhutan. This creates a big hole in tourism revenue for a small country like Bhutan. In early February, 358 tourists canceled their flights to Bhutan citing the effect of the virus, according to Kuensel.

Schools are also affected. Online learning with limited data capacity led to a low response from the students. A teacher told over the phone, “ the assigned homework does not return and I have to follow up on WeChat.” Some teachers in rural parts are reported to have frequented students’ homes to ensure students get the required help. “We are back to class, so it will be much easier now,” said an English teacher in Dorokha.

Meanwhile, Australia has granted aid to Bhutan to get more PPE to fight the pandemic.

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