Lockdown At Last


A 15-day lockdown can effectively break the chain of virus transmission

AFTER several weeks of indecisiveness on imposing lockdown to break the chain spread of the coronavirus, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced on Wednesday that the state will go into lockdown from Thursday evening till early Monday morning. He added that the lockdown was being imposed after taking into consideration the ‘public sentiment’.  Surprisingly, only a day earlier Sawant had asserted that his government can prevent the spread of COVID-19 without imposing a lockdown if the police discharge their duties effectively to enforce the COVID protocols. For weeks health experts, the media and well-meaning Goans, including a few party colleagues of the Chief Minister, had been suggesting that the state be placed under lockdown, but the pleadings were ignored by Sawant despite the soaring positivity and mortality rates.

If a lockdown had been ordered some weeks earlier, several lives might have been saved. However, even the belated lockdown is too short and might not be fully effective in breaking the chain of the virus transmission. The only industry that would be completely shut down during the lockdown is the gaming industry, the casinos, while almost all others, including restaurants will only be allowed to operate their kitchens for home deliveries but dine-ins will not be allowed. The shops selling essential items will be open. However, the weekly markets will not be opened. There will be no restriction on essential services at the entry points of the state. Tourists already in the state will not be allowed to step out of their hotels and will need to stay indoors during the period of the lockdown. The government has allowed weddings and other functions scheduled during the lockdown period to go ahead. The attendance at weddings has been restricted to 50 people. The COVID vaccination camps will be closed down.

The government’s approach to taming the rampaging coronavirus has been lax. What to speak of dithering on imposing a lockdown, even the restrictions the government was expected to enforce with the deployment of officials from the police and district administration were not enforced by it. No wonder, the negligence led to a huge rise in COVID cases. Had the government enforced the restrictions, especially at the public gatherings, be they political, religious, weddings, picnic spots, casinos, beaches and elsewhere, the Sawant government would have managed to contain the terrifying surge in the number of infections and positivity and mortality rates. The gatherings, at some of which ministers were present, turned out to be super spreaders of the coronavirus. The government kept on delaying a lockdown on the plea that it did not want to hurt the economy by ordering strict restrictions as it could lead to closure of commercial and industrial activities. Though belatedly, the government has finally “bowed to the sentiments” of the people and the advice of the medical fraternity and ordered a lockdown. However, the short duration of the lockdown is not going to help. Health experts say it is a feeble attempt by the government to break the chain. They say the lockdown should be at least for 15 days to be effective in breaking the chain of virus transmission.

Let us hope even a short lockdown helps in bringing down the positivity rate. Much will depend on how the police and district administration enforce the lockdown to keep people indoors. The government has given a window period for the public to store essentials even though shops dealing in these items are to be allowed to remain open. Irresponsible citizens who violate the restrictions and move about instead of staying indoors should be penalized without fear or favour. Ministers and MLAs are expected to behave in a responsible manner and not invite, encourage or participate in large gatherings. There is already suspicion in certain quarters that the government did not order a lockdown or even seriously enforce restrictions on gatherings because the politicians of the ruling camp wanted no restrictions during the campaigning for the elections to the five municipal councils which went to the polls last week. They need to give primacy to public interest and not to their political interest.