Keep Goa’s Gates Closed


State should not allow air and train transport until virus is contained

The Centre has decided to restart public transport in a limited way. The air, train and bus travel services were suspended in the country after the Centre imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 25 in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Some days after allowing movement of special trains to transport migrant workers earlier this month, the central government gave its nod for resumption of inter-state bus services with due approval of either of the state at the end of third phase of lockdown. The government also started 15 special trains to ferry passengers in various parts of the country. It also decided to allow resumption of domestic passenger flight services from May 25, though in a calibrated manner. The Centre has also announced that 200 passenger trains, both airconditioned and non-airconditioned, would be run from June 1 all over the country. While the resumption of public transport would help thousands of people stuck up in various parts of the country to reach home, fears have been expressed that these people returning home could bring the virus and infect others. 

It is strange to note that while announcing resumption of transport services the Centre has said that concurrence of the states would be obtained, it decided to do away with this requirement subsequently as far as train services were concerned. While giving its approval to restart air travel the central government has said that Centre alone cannot take a decision on resuming passenger flights and the state governments where the flights would be operated should be ready to allow these services in the spirit of cooperative federalism. The decision to resume air travel will help a large number of people, especially businessmen and executives who travel to different destinations, as it provides them access the quickest means of transport. Some states including Tamil Nadu and Telangana have already opposed the move and it remains to be seen whether other states would take a stand in favour or against the latest decision of the Union government.

Although, while allowing resumption of interstate public transport, the central government has announced that travellers would have to follow the Standard Operating Procedures strictly, apprehensions remain in the minds of state governments. India had 618 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 562 were active when the country was put under lockdown on March 25. There were just 13 deaths then. Despite over eight weeks of lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the number of people afflicted by the virus has been rising steadily and it now stands at over 1.12 lakh with 3,435 deaths recorded so far. Though the lockdown initially helped in controlling the spread of COVID-19, the number of cases has shot up sharply after the government decided to shift migrants to their native places; some of them carried the virus with them. Goa too has seen a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases over the last week, with 44 new cases having been reported in the state all of which were imported by people who came back to the state from other parts of the country or from abroad, an overwhelming majority of them being Goans. With limited medical and critical care facilities Goa cannot afford a spurt in coronavirus cases.

After Goa managed to come into the green zone with all the seven cases reported in the state were cured, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant opposed the idea of resumption of public transport, fearing import of virus from other places into Goa. There are concerns among Goans over those coming from outside the state bringing the virus. Concerns are genuine as nearly four dozen people have been diagnosed positive. Goa should not allow air travel as it would be difficult for the state government to test every person coming for business or recreation to the state. The state has managed the COVID-19 situation well with the available resources so far. Only persons of Goan origin should be allowed to come to the state from other states or other countries, for the government of their native state has a responsibility to take care of them. The state has to keep its gates closed for all others, until the coronavirus has been contained within its boundaries and other parts of the world.