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Citizens Need Discipline To Defeat COVID19

I have never come across such a sensitive, action oriented, positive and dynamic chief secretary like Rai. He is always willing to accept good suggestions

Nandkumar M Kamat

Goa needs discipline. Goans need discipline. Without discipline the present situation would be disastrous. All of us need to play a responsible and proactive role. As a microbiologist and a vigilant scientist on January 8, I had alerted Chief Secretary and health minister of Goa on what global press had reported as “mysterious outbreak causing panic in China’’. My message was simple and timely. It said- “please alert the members of Indian Medical Association in Goa as the dreaded disease could be weeks away from us due to proximity of international travel routes and peak tourist season. Of course, the central government must also be monitoring but we must be vigilant especially at the airport”.

On January 22, I sent them the article published in International Science journal Nature- “Stop The Wuhan Virus” while cautioning the government to be very alert and not to take any chances. On January 25 after suspected COVID19 cases were found at Mumbai airport my message to the government was- “keep thermal scanners, special wards and isolation procedures ready as it is just a matter of days that we could have the first COVID positive case.

“Thanks to extreme sensitivity shown by the Chief Secretary Parimal Rai, IAS and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane and quick grasp of the situation by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant the state government constituted a task force to deal with the merging situation.”

 I have interacted with many chief secretaries in the past four decades but I have never come across such a sensitive, action oriented, positive and dynamic chief secretary like Rai. He is always willing to accept good suggestions. People of Goa should be grateful to him for leading from the front without seeking any publicity. Even during the sickness of his father, he was tirelessly working in Goa. His team needs full, unequivocal and unconditional support during present pandemic. They cannot work without support from disciplined citizens.

Goa would never win the war against COVID19 pandemic unless the million adult citizens are disciplined.  Children and teenagers just follow the adults. Indiscipline by undisciplined citizens. This single  word ‘indiscipline’ explains the surge in present COVID19 positive cases. It has spread to about 40 locations well dispersed in the state. This dispersal, diffusion and distribution of the virus could happen only because of indiscipline. It means that the COVID19 viral nanoparticles are theoretically present in communication space of more than half of the state excluding the wildlife sanctuaries.

Politicians have the responsibility to comply with the COVID19 guidelines and act as moral force to discipline their voters. But they hate to antagonize their undisciplined voters. They prefer to attack the government but ignore how citizens in their own constituency are behaving. Everywhere in the public spaces there is nothing visible as “disciplined citizens” to indicate that Goa is under the evil shadow of the pandemic. That is the only reason why COVID19 positive cases are rising from the first week of June.

Citizens quickly learnt the word ‘unlockdown’ and began to believe that the coronavirus threat would automatically get washed out during the monsoon. There was a considerable degree of panic and seriousness in the first few weeks of the lockdown. This seriousness lasted till the end of April. The word “Green” in the “Green zone” probably made the citizens believe that the end of the pandemic was near. The government claims till end of May about zero mortality from the infection also emboldened citizens to become undisciplined. Social media was consistently misused to create an artificial “feel good’ fun loving environment.

Perhaps the successful conduct of examinations for three remaining papers of HSSC and twenty thousand students of SSC, a risky venture by Goa Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education without any adverse reports further encouraged the citizens to lower their caution in the final week of May.

The trajectory of the cases from Mangor hill onwards clearly suggest that only by the end of May the COVID19 nanoparticles were diffusing in the population. Now these locations have been notified as containment or micro containment zones. A direct connection has been found between the rising number of cases and shelter security of the people living in slum like areas. For many of them who earn just enough to support the families the extended lockdown had already served as disaster.

One cannot expect a hungry or sick person in such settlements to stringently follow the COVID19 guidelines. Their undisciplined behaviour evolved out of genuine economic and employment related issues. Places like Indiranagar Chimbel have become like ghettos with subdivision of lanes and by-lanes on basis of language, religion, caste of the residents. Every five years before the elections they are promised better sanitation. It was an absurdity for these people to somehow believe that the invisible enemy could be kept away by wearing a piece of cloth to cover their faces as they watch dirt and filth all around them. They are not used to remain in isolation for long periods.

Government would be surprised to see the existing morbidity and disease load in all these hutments- Ponda, Kamrabhat, Chimbel, Zuarinagar and similar locations.

Only testing them for COVID19 would not be sufficient. A complete health checkup is required to avoid future epidemics. They also keenly watched how the well to do citizens were throwing all the caution to the winds. A pattern would emerge from contact tracing and it would clearly indicate how little indiscipline could create an epidemiological domino effect.

The ‘superspreader” from Mangor hill is yet to be found. There are local paid guides available on borders of Goa in adjoining areas helping people to infiltrate without mandatory screening and COVID19 tests. Goa’s border with Maharashtra and Karnataka is so porous that it is difficult for the government to seal these numerous spots. We would never know how many from red zones in neighbouring states could enter Goa since April using these routes. The surveillance staff at all the check posts is so overworked and fatigued that it is impossible for them to work with efficiency. The violators of COVID19 guidelines simply pay the fine and then repeat their behaviour. In the coming weeks cases may rise purely because of indiscipline. The solution is in the hands of individual citizens. Only they can win this battle.

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