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People-Government Gap

Goa govt must actively involve  people in fight against COVID-19

THERE is no respite from the surge in coronavirus cases in the state. Over the past few days, the health officials have detected more than 230 cases. As many as 33 cases were detected on Sunday, a majority of them (30) from the hotspot at Mangor Hill. The number of confirmed COVID cases in the state has touched the 300 mark, of which 235 are active. The Mangor Hill locality in the port town of Vasco, which has been declared as a containment zone, has recorded the highest number of cases with over 200 confirmed cases as on Sunday. Among the 235 cases there are at least eight health workers, all of whom contracted the disease in the line of duty. Though almost a week has elapsed since the cases were first detected in Mangor Hill, the state health authorities have not been able to find the source from whom the disease spread in the locality.

There appear to have been some lapses on the part of the state administrative and health authorities that led to the huge increase in the number of COVID-19 cases beginning with this month. There are reports that suggest that the health workers attached to the Vasco urban health centre got infected at Mangor Hill while creating awareness about dengue and malaria among the people of the area and distributing mosquito nets. If that is true, then it suggests that the coronavirus infection was already prevalent in the area and the health and administrative authorities were not aware of it. The health authorities said that two of the eight health workers who have tested positive for COVID were a part of the throat swab collection team. The state government has been saying for long that all those engaged in fighting coronavirus have been provided with personal protection equipment (PPE). It is disturbing to note that the health workers who were tasked with the collection of swabs were infected despite wearing PPEs. Were the workers negligent in collecting the swabs and exposed themselves to virus or were the PPEs defective? Surely there was a fault somewhere, either in the PPEs or in the training of the health workers, for which the state health authorities must take responsibility.

The government rejected calls from various quarters to order a lockdown of the whole port town, saying it was a ‘local transmission’ restricted to Mangor Hill. Despite the local businessmen agreeing to shut down their shops, the government is reluctant to order a total lockdown in Vasco. It is also strange to note that the state government has changed the ministry of home affairs guidelines pertaining to perimeter of the containment zone and the buffer zone. While MHA has said that an area of three kilometres forms the perimeter of the containment zone and subsequent five kilometres as buffer zone, the Goa government has earmarked 500 metres as perimeter and another 500 metres as buffer zone. There are allegations that the government has done it to favour some vested interests. But this could prove to be disastrous for the people.

The handling of the recent spike by the authorities leaves much to be desired. There have been allegations of powerful people managing to get their favoured persons from other states into the state without mandatory checks at the border. The government authorities have not been successful in total enforcement of the virus protocol. And they have been far from transparent with the people. The end result of poor awareness campaign and random enforcement of protocol has been that the government has not been as much successful on the preventive side as it has been on the curative side. The home quarantine has been handled leaving a lot of loopholes. People coming from other states, who were home quarantined on paper, have been seen moving freely out of their homes and in public places. The government has to work harder on raising public awareness in order to get public support for social vigilance against protocol and quarantine violations, which could supplement the vigilance by the health officials. If people are less informed, negative reaction can be the result, rather than cooperation, as was witnessed at Shiroda on Sunday when the government opened a COVID hospital.

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