Mass Quarantine


Resentment growing among people locked up in containment zones

EVEN as the state witnesses a daily spike in the number of coronavirus positive cases and more people are being admitted to COVID-19 care centres, reports have emerged of serious shortcomings at these centres. To take just one example, the shortcomings were highlighted by the former state minister and the state Nationalist Congress Party chief, Jose Philip D’Souza, who lost his elder brother to the dreaded disease a few days ago. His testimony is disturbing; he said the COVID-19 care centres lacked amenities to cater to the needs of patients. D’Souza alleged that the inmates of the main COVID-19 care centre at Margao are served dal and vegetable diet and no one cares for their  request for supply of hot water. While the question of diet could be debated, it is a matter of serious concern that even hot water was being denied to the patients. It is sorry to note that the unfortunate victims of the virus have to live in pitiable conditions and be denied basic requirements at the government-run facilities specially created for them.

It is not only the COVID care centres where the state government’s approach, policy and provisions cry for correction, but also the so-called, sealed areas and containment zones. The statement made by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has shocked the people of Mangor Hill area in which he said that the residents of the locality who have tested negative for coronavirus can go to work, but they would not be allowed to return to their homes in the zone. With the stigma of being from the containment zone, these residents of Mangor Hill will not get any room or apartment on hire. Most of the residents of the locality have been out of job for over a month, and with hardly any money in their hands they would not be able to rent any apartment or room elsewhere, nor can they afford to eat three times in restaurants on a daily basis. Where would these people go if they were not allowed to return to their homes? Why should these hapless people be punished for the government’s lapses?

Similar has been the fate of women, many of whom were employed as housemaids in and around the capital city, staying in Camarabhat. These women work to supplement the family income. It is intriguing to note that following detection of seven cases in the area it was sealed and all the people have been placed under mass quarantine. The houses where these women were employed have shut doors on them depriving them of their wages. The government is now showing a tendency to declare areas even with less than 10 cases as containment zones, but the same government chose to ignore the pleadings of people of Vasco and Mormugao to declare their areas as containment zones when scores of cases were detected there, a foolish reluctance that led to spread of the virus to many  parts of the state. One can only feel sorry for the people in different parts of the state who have been forced to live in sealed areas for the failure of the government to nip the transmission in the bud at Mangor Hill.

With cases being detected in newer areas, the government would declare more containment zones. But let us pray to the government to stop creating open air prisons in the name of containment zones. The declaration of a containment zone suits the government more than the people living in the zone. The government locks up the people in their houses, but does not do its own duty of checking everyone for the virus. People in the zone are kept waiting for health officials to take their swabs. The government strategy is to seal a place and wait for cases, if any, to surface. The government finds it easier to take medical care of positive cases than conducting tests of an adequate proportion of the population in order to preempt the virus spread. That is what people locked up in the mass quarantine zones euphemistically called containment zones are beginning to complain about. The government is avoiding to act immediately to stop the spread of the virus in the sealed areas.