Extend Lockdown

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A longer lockdown alone can break the chain of virus transmission

THOUGH the state government ordered an 80-hour lockdown from 9 p.m. on Thursday to arrest the rising graph of COVID-19 cases, the state unit of the Indian Medical Association has urged the government that the lockdown be extended to at least 15 days or till the positivity rate is brought down to a lower and manageable level. The state recorded over 51 percent positivity rate on Thursday, the highest in the country. According to IMA, a shorter lockdown may not yield the desired results of breaking the chain of the coronavirus. The IMA is of opinion that it was necessary that the steep rise in coronavirus positive cases witnessed across the state in the last fortnight would make it difficult for the health infrastructure and personnel to manage. The best way was to bring down the number of cases through stringent measures in the shortest possible time. The health infrastructure is already to the point of brink owing to the huge rise in COVID cases, and treatment of infected people could become unmanageable if it is not contained at the earliest.

After dithering over the issue of ordering a lockdown the government finally decided on Wednesday to impose one from Thursday night. However, questions have been raised over the efficacy of a short lockdown, with health experts saying it was unlikely to bear fruit. The experts have questioned Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s claim that the short lockdown will help break the chain of coronavirus. If a brief lockdown could break the chain of transmission the Centre and other states could also have imposed short lockdowns. It is relevant to note here that despite almost a month-long lockdown cases have not come down in Maharashtra and other states where stringent curbs have been imposed to contain the spread of virus.

Health experts consider the Goa government’s approach in dealing with the precarious situation as half-hearted, an approach which has created confusion and could be counter-productive. The fault in the government approach is apparent from the fact that it has allowed several non-essential activities to continue during the lockdown which has been misinterpreted by the trading community to keep their establishments open, which could defeat the purpose of lockdown. The government has allowed the municipal, panchayat and fish markets to remain open. The government has left the enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour, like wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance to the people. We have seen that the fault lay in the poor enforcement of the norms by the police and district administration. While the markets functioned normally on the first day of the lockdown, there was hardly any presence of police to ensure that people adhered to guidelines. Such unrestricted access to the people to venture out of their houses without proper enforcement is likely to help in transmission of the virus rather than in arresting its spread. The flaws in the government’s lockdown order came in for criticism even from some of its ministers. As collective efforts are needed to break the chain of transmission of the virus, which is threatening to affect the state population, there should have been consultations with cabinet members and a coordinated effort should have been made to deal with the pandemic.

It needs to be said that a majority of Goans abide by the COVID norms. Even those businesses closed down their establishments, though the orders of the collector gave them room to remain open. Some places went into lockdown even before the government’s lockdown came into effect, but in other places life was normal with businesses continuing as usual. With the worst still to come, the government has to prepare itself to deal with the situation. There is a likelihood of shortage of manpower to deal with the fresh COVID cases. Given the fact that government doctors are under tremendous pressure owing to the unbridled surge, the government has to mobilize additional medical and paramedical manpower. The government might have to invoke the Epidemic Act to requisition the services of private doctors and paramedical staff at the earliest, but also provide them services such as transport for the paramedical staff between home and hospital.