Fresh Covid spike in neighbourhood cause for concern


An uneasy calm prevails as there is a sudden spike in influenza and Covid-19 cases across India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting where directions were issued to officials to enhance genome sequencing and implement Covid-appropriate behaviour.

The uptrend is undoubtedly a cause for concern. India logged 1,300 new Covid cases on Wednesday, the highest in 140 days. According to Union Health Ministry data, active Covid cases in India stood at 7,605. Around 966 infections are reported in India against the 108 daily average in February. In Goa, there are a total of 137 infections, with active cases now reported in all health centres. The rise in infections has prompted Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to appeal for caution, but the question is whether the government should initiate Covid protocol and restrictions.

Goa can never forget the horrors of the two Covid waves that hit the State between 2020-21, killing nearly 4,000 people. Back in March 2020, when the virus first arrived, the immaturity in handling the situation stood exposed against an extreme ambition to ride the tourism wave. From an "error of judgement" to "unpreparedness", Goa has come a long way and should be in a better position to understand situations.

Covid cases are rising nationwide, including in Goa, and although there is certainly no reason to panic, there is a need to maintain caution and adopt Covid-appropriate behaviour. The concern for Goa is that it is buzzing with tourists who could easily be carriers, especially visitors coming from across the borders or international tourists landing from destinations that the virus has badly hit, like the US, Russia and Brazil.

Goa's bulk of desi tourists arrives from neighbouring Maharashtra and Karnataka, both places on the list of eight states with the maximum cases detected. Also, Maharashtra tops the list of those infected by the new XBB 1.16 variant, and Karnataka stands third.

The only consolation is that the XBB 1.16 variant of the virus is believed to less harmful than its predecessor, although it is highly contagious and can escape immunity. Another positive is that the infections are not severe and relatively not life-threatening like the earlier variants.

The downside for Goa is that although the mutant virus is not as lethal as the earlier variants, it still attacks the respiratory system, and people with comorbidities could find recovery challenging. Goa cannot ignore the early warning signs that the new variant is showing, and a mere caution announcement will not help.

The State must reintroduce the protocol of face masks after doing a risk assessment as a matter of primary caution. In addition, there must be mock drills, and the department must replenish stocks of vaccinations and booster doses. Karnataka is caught in a tight spot, having run short of vaccine supplies.

The bottom line is that while exercising caution, the situation has to be closely monitored. The government has to brace up to face an escalation.

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