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The message of warning coming from Mangor Hill

The detection of two coronavirus positive cases at Mangor Hill made the state government declare that highly congested part of the port town of Vasco as a containment area. This is the first containment area declared by the state government. After getting into the green zone, Goa saw a rise in cases with the arrival of people from other states. Yet the state government could maintain that they were ‘imported’ cases. That wall has now been breached. It is local transmission now. A policeman at Colva has also tested positive. There could be other cases. Although the state government insists we are at the stage of local transmission, the line between a local transmission and a community transmission could be thin. It would not be easy to trace the source of infection for positive patients who were living in Goa and had not travelled in recent months.

The health officials claim to have started contact tracing. One report suggests that the two persons at Mangor Hill might have got the virus from some men from another state who visited them recently. The detection of coronavirus cases at Mangor Hill should serve as eye opener for the state authorities who need to be more vigilant to ensure that people coming from other states and carrying the disease do not go undetected. Fears have been expressed for long in various quarters that there was possibility of community transmission of the disease as some people came to the state undetected by thermal screening at the borders, railway stations or airport and carried the virus. If the source of infection to the patients at Mangor Hill were visitors from another state, the question arises how the visitors went undetected in the state and how securely they were kept under surveillance in quarantine. Whether the cases reported at Mangor Hill are community transmission or not, the health authorities should do everything possible to prevent the spread of the virus to others in the containment zone.

Goa had got control of the virus after the initial missteps in the beginning. However, concerns have grown after the movement of people by train or road or air was allowed. The state recorded dozens of cases, with at least one case being detected daily. All the carriers of the virus were people coming from other states, particularly Maharashtra. Till the movement of people was not allowed the state had restricted the positive cases to just seven, all of which were imported, which put the state in the green zone. It is disturbing to note that the cases of local transmission were detected on the first day of “Unlock 1.” Detection of more such cases could come in the way of relaxation of curbs and economic revival. The health authorities should scale up testing among local population to rule out the possibility of any more cases of virus transmission. There may be people with symptoms like fever and cough who might be under treatment for another disease. Testing would help in checking on them and also detecting asymptomatic cases, which are expected to rise with the onset of monsoon.

The increasing number of coronavirus cases calls for rethinking on whether the state should allow movement of people as there is possibility of large number of people getting afflicted by the disease imported into the state from elsewhere. Sudden rise in COVID-19 cases would put intense pressure on the health care personnel and facilities in the state. It would be better if such a situation is avoided by proactive measures like restricting movement of people from other states. The state should allow only those who carry COVID-19 negative certificate issued by ICMR-approved laboratories 24 hours before their arrival and prevent sneaking of unscrupulous elements. Those, especially those from other states who have been residents of the state prior to lockdown, who come without valid COVID-19 negative certificates should be subjected to tests at their own costs followed by compulsory quarantine. The authorities should focus on detecting those who enter clandestinely to rule out possibility of surreptitious transmission of contagious virus. Goa can also consider the option of banning entry of others coming for leisure purpose till the threat of virus subsides or is controlled.

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