The Missing Balance

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Efficacious control of virus is must for revival of economy

REPORTS of tourists coming to the state testing positive for the coronavirus have been coming frequently since tourism reopened earlier this month. In the initial few days of reopening there were no cases, but  they started surfacing as the number of tourists grew in the following weeks. It is surprising that though standard operating procedures are supposed to be in place to be followed by tourists and the stakeholders in the tourism sector to prevent spread of the virus, cases of tourists testing positive have been taking place. As the reasons behind tourists testing positive for coronavirus are not officially known, doubts have been raised over the efficacy of the SOPs. Who is to be blamed for tourists being infected by the virus? Both the government and the stakeholders have to remember that an increase in the number of cases could have an ill effect on the tourism sector and consequently on the state‚Äôs finances and state economy.

In response to the persistent demand of the organisations of tourism businesses, the state government had allowed reopening of hotels and worked out the standard operating procedures to be followed by the stakeholders. The tourists visiting Goa were given options either to carry a COVID-19 negative certificate issued at least 48 hours before arrival in the state or get tested at their own cost at the state entry point on their arrival. The hoteliers were issued directions to ensure social distancing and sanitisation of the premises. From the fact that some tourists have tested positive during their stay in Goa it is apparent that safety measures have been compromised at one place or the other. Are tourists mixing with the hotel employees and other persons who might be asymptomatic? Or did they carry the disease from their native places without being detected during testing? Has the genuineness of the certificates produced by them been verified? There is a need to go into every aspect to get to the bottom of the reasons behind the detection of infection among tourists.

Perhaps taking note of the big increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state among the locals and also the tourists, the state government has come up with the idea of subjecting every person arriving in the state to rapid antigen test.  Rapid antigen test is a faster diagnostic test suitable for point-of-care testing that directly detects the presence or absence of an antigen. It has to be noted that antigen tests are designed to detect viral proteins which would come from the spikes that coat the outside surface of the virus that trigger an immune response in the body. However, there are different opinions on the efficacy of antigen tests. One opinion says antigen testing is not as sensitive as PCR testing, which means there is a greater chance that antigen tests could deliver false negative results. Experts who hold this opinion say that a patient could be infected by coronavirus, but an antigen test might not be sensitive enough to detect it. How they will help in fighting the increasing number of the coronavirus cases among tourists and locals in the state remains to be seen.

The Goan economy depends significantly on tourism and any adverse effect on the sector would mean lower incomes to persons employed. Opinions were divided on reopening of tourism as the COVID-19 cases were increasing in the state. However, the state government, under the double pressure of the central government asking for reopening of more and more businesses and of the tourism businesses decided to let hotels be reopened. The central government has been asking  state governments to unlock the economy, a strategy that is clearly based on the premise that the coronavirus is not going to go away any time soon. However, what the central government has clearly failed to find is balance between unlocking of economic activities and containment of the virus. With the unlocking of economic activities the virus spread has become wider, hampering, and in some cases, curtailing or even stopping industrial production or commercial business activities. It is clear from this that efficacious containment of the virus is absolutely essential for the revival of the Goan economy including tourism.