A Tight Monitoring

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The govt must also engage police, youth in vigiliance of quarantined

Even as the cases of coronavirus  increase in substantial numbers every day, the state government has framed a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for people coming to Goa by air, train or road that may open doors for cheating, misrepresentation and cover-up by suspects. All persons entering Goa would now be subjected to thermal screening on their arrival. Those found having higher than normal temperature would be sent for COVID-19 test immediately, while others without any symptoms of the disease could choose any of two options: one, undergo compulsorily home quarantine for 14 days or opt for test by paying the requisite fee. Those choosing the latter option would have to remain in the paid quarantine facility till their test reports are received. Those choosing to undergo home quarantine will carry the stamp on their hands to facilitate their identification. The state government says the SOP has been revised owing to two factors: one, Goa’s testing capacity is small and the number of people coming is very large. Two, though everyone coming to Goa was tested, he or she could roam around for three or more days, until the test results were out, which opened room for any infected person to spread the virus.

However, with the new SOP, the number of home quarantined persons is expected to go up in thousands, as most entrants might find the testing option costly and opt for home quarantine. They might decide that it would be easier to sail through home quarantine, than to go through test. How the government will manage to enforce home quarantine of thousands of persons is uncertain. The government has decided to ask panchas and panchayat secretaries in rural areas and councillors and chief officers in urban areas to monitor quarantined people. This is supposed to be based on the Kerala model, which served well in that state and paid rich dividends. However, the Kerala model was effective because it has a very strong panchayati raj system which is supplemented by vigilant self-help groups and non-government organisations. Absence of such support in Goa could leave room for violations of home quarantine. Panchas and councillors are politicians who might look the other way if the quarantined person is their relative or voter. Also, it would be beyond the capabilities of panchayat secretaries and chief officers of municipal council to monitor every person under their jurisdiction by visiting their homes if the numbers are big.

The government should also ask police to monitor quarantined persons. The government should also encourage formation of vigilant groups at the local level. These groups could be made up of members of  student unions like Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad and National Students Union of India, who are already active in creating awareness about COVID-19 and rendering other possible help. These groups should be urged to not only keep an eye on those placed under home quarantine but also those showing symptoms of the virus, which would help in early detection and containing the spread. The government has worked on the curative side of the virus in a much better way than on the preventive side. It has to create a many-layered surveillance system for monitoring the quarantined. 

The government has to act fast to contain the spread of the virus that has spread to newer parts of Vasco. The government made a serious mistake by not ordering the declaration of whole Vasco as a containment zone as was demanded by various sections of the society. Business and social groups of the port town supported the idea. The government has a tough challenge at their hand as the virus has found to be prevalent in different parts of the state with there being every possibility of those carrying the virus and unaware of their health status passing it on to their families and acquaintances. Many people travel to and from the port town of Vasco for work and these people may catch the virus and carry it to their families and neighbourhoods. The government has to provide safe and flawless personal protection equipment (PPE) to health workers, as several of them have been found infected.  The government will also have to expand its testing capacity.