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Keeping Goans Safe

Foolproof virus check must for people arriving from other states

People in Goa and other states are anxiously waiting for the measures the Centre would announce at the end of the third extension of lockdown on May 17. Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested a roadmap in his address to the nation on Tuesday. He had held a meeting with the chief Ministers of states and union territories on Monday to seek their suggestions on the way forward. While several chief ministers demanded that the lockdown be extended to enable them to contain the spread of the coronavirus, other chief ministers suggested that the lockdown be eased substantially for allowing economic activities to gather pace in order to help businesses and employees survive in these difficult times. Billed as the biggest and the longest lockdown in the history of mankind, the nearly eight-week-long confinement of people in their homes or specially designated places has shut down the national economy. The abrupt announcement of lockdown and its extensions twice to contain spread of deadly virus brought indescribable miseries to the poorer people, especially the migrant workers caught up without job, money and home in various states. Even as most people are hoping an end to their confinement, some places, especially the hotspots and confinement zones, would have to endure further lockdown till some sort of normalcy is restored. There have been submissions from states that they should be allowed to do the zoning as well as allowing various activities. With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise sharply in the country an extended lockdown was expected to continue, though with far less restrictions, especially in green and orange zones.

The focus of the central government and state governments has to be on keeping the rural India pandemic free. The coronavirus pandemic has largely remained confined to the urban India, though the spread in the countryside is also there in some states. The threat of spread in the rural parts comes from the arrival of migrant workers from different states to their homes. Modi knows, as do his ministers and the chief ministers, that the migrant workers were forced to walk hundreds of miles to their state as they had no means of survival.  Modi’s advice to the chief ministers to work out a “balanced strategy” to contain the coronavirus and to restart economic activities has to be followed within the boundaries of their states. They have to chalk out a comprehensive roadmap, with a focus on strengthening the COVID-19 containment strategy and stepping up economic activities in a calibrated manner.

Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant expects the state to have more relaxation, especially with regard to interstate public transport with restrictions. Sawant put forth Goa’s perspective on the revival of the state’s economy with resumption of mining and tourism. Surprisingly, while Chief Minister has sought revival of tourism, he has emphasized the need to restrict movement of trains as well as flights. Sawant has to make his idea of allowing “restricted tourism” clearer to the stakeholders. He should draw a clear roadmap of revival of tourism and mining. A Goa-specific revival plan is necessary to boost its sagging economy and facilitate restoration of normal life in the coming months.

With more relaxations on movement of people through train and other means of travel in the weeks ahead, the states, including Goa, need to remain vigilant to ensure that people coming from elsewhere do not bring the virus with them. With more and more new arrivals in many states testing positive for COVID-19, the states including Goa need to focus on identifying potential carriers and prevent them from infecting others. It is easy to detect those coming through legal state borders and subject them to testing; the task of the police to track those entering through village and forest routes is difficult. However, the Goa police have said that they are seeking cooperation of the local people to inform them if they see any outsider entering Goa through village and forest routes. A few such persons were caught and quarantined and sent back to their states. Any compromise or lapse on the part of the authorities could lead to carriers going undetected and spreading it to Goans, who for almost 45 days have been free from the scourge of the virus.

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