Bhutan, a small nation, sandwiched between India and China, has emerged as the world’s pandemic success story.
Bhutan so far has registered only one COVID-19 related death case.
A 34-year-old man with pre-existing liver and kidney ailments had succumbed to COVID-19 in Thimpu on January 7.
This was the first and the only death related to COVID-19 since the pandemic broke out in November 2019.
It may be mentioned here that Bhutan achieved this feat at a time when several other super nations including the United States, entire Europe and even and China struggled terribly to contain the virus.
Notably, Bhutan has only 337 physicians for a population of around 7,60,000.
Bhutan barely had 3,000 health workers, and one PCR machine to test viral samples.
Bhutan had trusted, smart, and hands-on direction from its king, whose moral authority carries great weight.
He explicitly told government leaders that even one death from COVID-19 would be too much for a small nation that regards itself as a family.
“The health and safety of the people of Bhutan is of the greatest priority, and as such, we are putting in place every measure necessary to safeguard the people of Bhutan,” Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck had said in the first address to the nation in March last year.
The Bhutanese King had left his four-day-old prince and his queen at the palace and embarked on a nationwide tour to meet local authorities, frontline workers, and to see first-hand the mitigation measures against the pandemic.
All entry points to Bhutan were shut on March 23, as cases across the border rose exponentially despite the best efforts.
Bhutan saw two nationwide lockdowns and numerous restrictions in response to the pandemic that severely hampered businesses and devastated livelihoods.
Moreover, deferment of loan and waiver of interest following the Royal command came as a huge relief for the people.
At least 19,126 accounts that had non-performing loan (NPL) benefited from the interest waiver.
“The pandemic would have crushed the private sector if not for the magnanimity and benevolence of His Majesty,” a contractor said.
It is tempting to dismiss Bhutan or other small, communitarian countries as irrelevant models for the United States.
But its victory, at least so far, in staving off the worst of the pandemic might give Bhutan the confidence and drive it needs to tackle other challenges on its own terms.