Let Professionals Lead

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Politicians and bureaucrats must leave COVID combat to health professionals

THE coronavirus situation is getting more and more serious in the state with an unchecked rise in the number of positive cases every day. The curve is moving upward and upward. The state recorded 136 new COVID-19 cases on July 8, the highest so far, surpassing the previous high of 108 recorded on July 4. The virus has been infecting people in newer and newer areas, and if the situation is not controlled in the near future, the COVID care infrastructure in the state will face an unmanageable pressure, which will be a dangerous state. With the total number of cases  already crossing the 2,000 mark and nine deaths attributed to COVID-19 complications, there is an urgent need for the state government to rethink its standard operating procedures for fighting the coronavirus. The state government has to make a course correction to prevent a huge surge in numbers of coronavirus positive cases in the days ahead which could have dangerous implications for the population.

The government strategy has not been very effective so far in containing the spread of the virus. The strategy was presented by the government as ‘dynamic’ when actually the word for frequent errors and belated corrections should have been called ‘vacillating’. In the initial period, lockdown and other measures helped the state government in controlling the spread of the virus to a great extent, but the situation turned for the worse following the relaxation of lockdown. The government made a major mistake in not acting swiftly and decisively in containing the outbreak in Mangor Hill from where the virus spread first to other parts of the port town of Vasco and then to other areas in the state. The government’s delayed action in Mangor Hill and its refusal to lock down Vasco proved costly in human terms. Many experts in the field of medicine believe that the situation has also taken a turn for the worse because of lack of effective enforcement of the law relating to compulsory use of face masks, public gatherings and social distancing. There have been reports of people with connections to the powers that be holding parties. The government has restricted its action to ordering inquiries into such parties which are nothing but a facade to calm down public resentment.

The state’s fight against the coronavirus led by politicians and bureaucrats has been a story of losses. Though committees in accordance with the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines have been formed, these committees do not meet regularly: suggestions or opinions of all members are not taken, or not taken seriously if taken at all. The government issues directions rather than allowing health professionals to take the lead to bring the situation under control. The government must let the health professionals decide what is the best strategy to be followed under the present circumstances. It is because of the inadequacy, inefficiency and unsatisfactory effectiveness of the government’s strategy that private players in the field of medical care are trying to seize the opportunity for their benefit. The changing scene makes it necessary for the government to revisit its approach in the fight against coronavirus and hand over the responsibility to medical experts, who have been made to play second fiddle so far. The government should provide the medical professionals all the required resources.

Questions have been raised over the appointment and efficacy of guardian ministers to oversee COVID-19 management. That might mean the ground-level medical professionals having to cater to the calls and requests and pressures of more politicians than they had so far to deal with. The government seeking help from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment to Clafasio Dias, the BJP MLA from Cuncolim, but not in the cases of other Goan patients who might be serious or might have lost their lives can be seen as discriminatory by people. Were the lives of ordinary Goans not important? The government must get health professionals to draw up the strategy to combat the virus. The government should ensure that life-saving drugs that have been recommended in the latest ‘clinical management’ protocol by the Indian Council of Medical Research are procured and given to all needy patients without any discrimination.