System On The Brink

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State must expand testing, beds and oxygen supply

THE health infrastructure in the state is under the risk of breaking down. Be it testing, be it a bed in hospital, be it oxygen for critical patients—the curative system for COVID seems to be giving way. The long delay in testing and scarcity of beds and oxygen are factors that are causing the spread of the infection. The number of cases is going beyond control. The positivity rate is very high. The state government has to do much more than it has done so far.

The state recorded 2,293 fresh COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the highest so far. Nearly 6,000 samples were tested in the state on Sunday, the highest so far. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant attributed the surge to the government’s efforts to clear the backlog and ramp up testing with the help of a private laboratory. According to Sawant, the COVID figures would be higher over the next two days as the backlog is cleared. For quite some time now the state government was testing around 3,000 samples collected from people and a backlog of an equal number was left owing to inadequate testing facilities. With the second wave of pandemic hitting the state, it is necessary that the samples of all those coming to the testing centres are collected and tested. Faster testing and identification of those positive for coronavirus and their timely isolation would go a long way in preventing the spread of the virus.

The situation at the testing centres appears to be chaotic with people having to stand in queues for hours together for their turn to give the sample. There is a possibility of people catching the virus during their long wait to give the sample. Efforts should be made to avoid long queues and cut the time people have to wait to get tested. With limited testing facilities people have to wait for days to get the infection status. The reports are received three to four days after collection of samples, by which time there is possibility of virus being transmitted by those affected by it. The experts have warned that the peak of the pandemic is expected to arrive by mid-May. The state government has to be prepared to prevent casualties beforehand. Along with additional testing facilities, the authorities have to also ensure that there were enough numbers of beds and oxygen cylinders to treat patients needing hospitalization. The action has to be fast and smooth so as to prevent panic.

With more and more people being affected, the fear of contracting the disease is driving people toward testing centres. All testing centres are witnessing a huge rush of people and the staff, which is limited in number, has to work tirelessly for hours in collecting the samples and sending them for testing. Most of these centres operate on week days and those developing symptoms on holidays and Sundays have to wait for a working day for testing, which could perhaps be one of the reasons for the spread of COVID cases in the state as people tend to mix with others. There have been cases of people with severe symptoms being turned away from government hospitals with testing facilities, except the two hospitals and Goa Medical College, on Sundays and holidays. The token system used serves as hindrance for those turning up a bit late.  Even private hospitals do not collect samples on Sundays. They should be told to do.

With the huge surge in COVID cases that has affected almost six percent of the state’s population, it is necessary that the state sets up more sample collection centres. The authorities also have to ensure that more testing facilities are added for timely tests and reports. With the peak of the pandemic yet to arrive, it is necessary that nothing is left to fate. It is not only testing that has to be expanded but also enough bed and oxygen needs to be arranged to treat patients with severe conditions; else the mortality will keep on growing. The positivity rate and the mortality rate in Goa are of very scary proportions, and the government cannot escape blame for it.