Goa dithers on how to break the chain of coronavirus
With the coronavirus positive cases showing no sign of abatement, several self-governing bodies in the state have imposed a lockdown in their jurisdiction aiming to break the chain of the dreaded virus. The number of local bodies going into self-imposed lockdown is increasing every day. The authorities of the local bodies have apparently been forced to take the most severe steps to restrict movement of people in their areas as COVID cases have been shooting up drastically. The decision of the local bodies has obviously come as a result of their assessment that the restrictions put in force by the government were not adequate to deal with the alarming situation. Even the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Goa Hotel and Restaurant Association have called for voluntary closure of non-essential shops in the capital city until Sunday May 9. The Corporation of the City of Panaji has also made a similar call for businesses under its jurisdiction.
Local-level lockdowns indicate that the representatives of the people on the local bodies have taken the issue of safety from the coronavirus more seriously than the state government. On Monday Goa recorded 2,703 fresh COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of cases reported in the state to 98,088 since the pandemic hit the state. The number of COVID cases recorded in the state with a population of 15 lakh is higher than 2600-odd cases recorded in Mumbai on the same day. Mumbai has a population of nearly 2 crore. The dreaded virus has so far claimed 1,320 lives in Goa with more than 150 deaths recorded in the last three days alone. Most of the COVID cases came to be recorded in the state during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which health experts say is more lethal than the first one. The state government dithered for weeks before ordering a lockdown and when it finally did it did it for a short period, rejecting calls for lockdown from various quarters.
As COVID cases go on mounting the health infrastructure in the state has got stretched beyond limits. There are no beds to accommodate patients and there have been a few cases of attacks on health professionals by the angry relatives of the patients. Though the alert was sounded some weeks ago, the state government has failed to take effective steps that could rein in the virus. The state has adopted half-hearted measures to combat the virus, and that has meant that it has been affecting more and more people and claiming more and more lives. It has been well-established that the chain of the transmission of the virus cannot be broken without a long lockdown. Maharashtra and Delhi went for a lockdown despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to “save the country from lockdown” and the result has shown in lower number of cases and lower positivity rate. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has been very reluctant to order a long lockdown, though he now feels more stringent measures to close down non-essential services should be taken to arrest the spread of the virus.
The trade and industry bodies and the local self-government bodies have shown the way. The Chief Minister needs to realise that there is no other way to bring down positivity and mortality rates without a lockdown. The positivity rate has come down from its peak of 51 percent to 46 percent. The rate needs to be brought down to 10 percent or less for the health infrastructure to be less stressed. Half-hearted measures would only make the COVID situation unmanageable. It is necessary that the state ramps up its medical services to deal with the surge that is expected to peak in over a week from now. The state government should invoke the Epidemic Act to get the services of medical and paramedical professionals in treating people admitted for institutional care. The state has to ensure adequate oxygen to treat patients. The state must start vaccination of the 18-44 age group as quickly as possible. A longer lockdown will help the state get some breathing space to ramp up its health services.