The Second Wave

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The economy must run with COVID controls

For the COVID-19 surge the state government blames the new ‘double mutant’ variant of the virus. While the new variant could be behind the surge, the government cannot escape a major share of the blame for it. The government has refused to order any lockdown, saying there are enough restrictions already laid down in the standard operating procedures (SOPs). However, the disturbing reality is that the government has not shown any will, inclination or interest in strictly enforcing the restrictions. The police have not been told by the government to enforce the restrictions without complacency in public places. Blaming the people is not enough. If people do not follow the procedures, it is the responsibility of the government to do it. But they are not doing it.

The state now has close to 4,000 active cases and the number could go up given the new records being set almost every day. The state has been recording a 20 percent positivity rate against the national average of under 6 percent. It has recorded an average of 426 cases per day over the last week. The Pune-based National Institute of Virology that carried out the genome sequencing of random samples sent by Goa for testing has confirmed that at least four variants of coronavirus were prevalent in the state, including the ‘double mutant” first detected in Nagpur in December last year. The other variants are those that originated in the US and the UK, and the original one which was imported in India since the outbreak of the pandemic. The ‘Double mutant’ variant of the coronavirus was first detected in Nagpur in Maharashtra. Over the past few months it has spread across the country with people carrying it with them as they moved along from place to place. With thousands of people coming from Maharashtra to Goa every day there is every possibility of the virus being carried by them. It is feared that the double mutant could be a super-spreader in the state.

Goa did well to control the spread of the coronavirus in the first wave after seeing an increase in numbers of cases from June onwards. The state had managed to bring the number of fresh cases down to 30 in February this year and active cases to a few hundred only to lose the initiative in mid-March and allow the cases to rise dramatically. The state is apparently in the grip of a second wave of coronavirus attack that is sweeping across the country. Given the fact that the positivity rate in the state is much above national average, it is time for the authorities to come up with initiatives that could help contain the spread, even if it means putting curbs on movements of people for non-essential outings at least. Though the vaccination drive, currently underway, holds promise in containing the virus it would take a long time given the current pace of vaccination to ensure a substantial number of people are covered. The state should impress the Centre to allow the younger generation, now vulnerable to the disease, to get the vaccines.

Even while the cases are shooting up in the state, the government has been acting callously, casually and at times irresponsibly. The government recently allowed a cultural extravaganza because some ministers in the Modi government wanted it. Large crowds gathered; there was no enforcement of restrictions. Film shootings are allowed. Nightclubs and casinos are conducting business without any control. Crowds are gathering for festive, social, political and private celebrations in hotels and public halls, but there is no enforcement of the restrictions. If only one or two policemen were posted daily outside every hall and hotel where gatherings take place to enforce mask wearing and physical distancing, the spread of the pandemic would have been lesser. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has stolidly refused to impose new restrictions like COVID-19 negative certificate for people coming to Goa or a lockdown on the ground that the economy must run. Of course, the economy must run. But it has to run in the current environment within strict controls. The state government is letting the economy run without controls. That is why the pandemic is spreading.