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Green Zone At Risk

Quarantine must be compulsory for anyone coming from outside

The detection of seven new coronavirus cases in Goa on Wednesday has put the state’s Green Zone status under threat. For the first time so many cases were detected in the state in one go. Six of them – a family of five and the driver of the car in which they were travelling – were found positive after the screening at the checkpost and quarantined before they could come in contact with anyone residing in Goa. However, the seventh victim of the virus, a driver who entered Goa from Gujarat, went undetected at the checkpost and reached Bethoda in Ponda and stayed there overnight. His case could have gone undetected but for the altertness and presence of mind of the employees of the dhaba (roadside eatery) where he went for food on Wednesday. They noticed his health condition, which suggested Covid-19 symptoms, and called for emergency medical help. He was found positive in a rapid test, and later confirmed to be so.

The health officials manning the testing facilities at the checkpost where the family of six and their driver were screened and found positive in rapid tests should be lauded. At the same time, questions must be raised how the driver from Gujarat went undetected at the checkpost. Though the authorities have claimed that all seven were asymptomatic on their arrival in Goa, it is unlikely that the condition of the truck driver who came from Gujarat could deteriorate overnight to such an extent that it could be visible to commoners like the employees of the dhaba. The effectiveness of border screening is something Goans are getting seriously worried about. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s statement that it was not possible to check 100 per cent of people arriving at the checkposts and that some people might have escaped testing and entered Goa could only add to the worries of Goans. Does this mean that Goa cannot mount its guard fully in keeping the deadly virus at bay?  The state government should not forget that it is the Goan people’s cooperation that has helped the government in containing the spread of the virus. If health workers can be lauded for detecting the family of six and their driver, the people at the dhaba should be lauded for helping detection of the driver from Gujarat. People need full assurance of foolproof vigilance by the government at the checkposts, not a frank admission of the improbability of it.

The state has so far tested 6,151 persons of whom 14 tested positive, including the seven cases detected on Wednesday. The state had managed to keep its slate clean of coronavirus cases for 40 days, till the virus was imported into the state on May 14. Now that the state has agreed to allow people living in the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka and working in various firms in the state, it has to ensure that every person sought to be brought into the state is not only screened but also quarantined. The quarantine of every worker is essential, because we have seen in the new seven cases and they can be asymptomatic and then show as positive. The state government would be exposing Goan population, which has remained safe so far, to serious risks by not quarantining the industrial workers being brought at the request of various companies from the neighbouring states. In Maharashtra the COVID-19 situation is spreading at an alarming rate. There is more likelihood of asymptomatic workers from Maharashtra turning symptomatic. The state government cannot rely on undertakings of the workers coming from other states. There should be no exemption, no mercy, no special treatment to anyone coming from outside. It is a question of life and death of Goans, after all.

On their own, the Goan people have to remain vigilant wherever they are. They must take it as a mission to complement the efforts of the state government in maintaining surveillance on the suspected people in their villages and towns. It is beyond the capacity of the state officials to check every person sneaking into the state through porous boundary. The society can contribute a lot by informing the authorities of newer people in their localities to help officials check their antecedents and health conditions.

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