Tuesday 28 Sep 2021

Covid curfew: Retrospectively

ROHAN KHANUTE | MAY 15, 2021, 11:04 PM IST

The disastrous second wave of Covid surges ahead in Goa breaking TPR and death records! Such unprecedented virulence in our little State definitely warrants retrospection. 

Despite having the time advantage, Goa government failed miserably to initiate preventive measures to protect Goans from the second wave. 

Municipal elections, appeasement of hotel & casino lobby and internal politics took precedence over Covid management. Lack of coordination between CM and Health Ministry continues to be fatal for Goa.

There’s a visible dearth of an intellectually decisive administration in the State which has eventually led to shocking deaths and uncontrollable spread of the pandemic in Goa. 

Media keeps discussing different virus variants like UK variant, Bihar variant, Andhra variant etc and their increasing infectious potential. Containment of these infectious variants is not possible with just a perfunctory curfew but demands a wider platform of overall controlled environment limiting movement of the population within the state as well as restricting susceptible carriers into the state.

There was a delay in imposing Covid negative certification at borders to restrict the influx of virus through our borders. This has proved disastrous and contributed to the super-spread that we’re suffering now. 

Economic priorities are viable in normalcy not in a deadly pandemic! Government failed to take note of the unprecedented virulence and prioritise health & welfare over economy and Goans are now paying with their lives. 

Containment measures within the State proved an absolute failure followed by a 4-day lockdown. Its ineffectiveness was evident from the fact that maximum number of deaths were recorded during the inept lockdown. 

Every stipulation of Section 144 was openly flouted in full view during the so called 4-day lockdown. This exhibits lack of concern to protect public Life. 

It’s a governments primary duty to protect the people but there’s been an abject failure leading to countless deaths and suffering and unless better sense prevails, there will be no population to govern! 

The current curfew is just another example of government’s unwillingness to implement a total lockdown and the reasons behind this are unfathomable. 

Expert’s in the field as well as other state leaders have realised the futility of halfway restrictions and have moved towards stringent total lockdown to contain the virus. Goan leadership should adopt the same strategy. 

Both Central and State governments had an advantageous timeframe of almost a year since the first outbreak to ramp up medical infrastructure development in preparedness for the subsequent Covid spikes predicted by the scientific community. Both Centre & State wasted precious time in electioneering and petty politics ignoring the warnings and thus were caught unprepared by the second wave. 

Vaccination strategy of the government is totally flawed from the beginning. While the Centre’s folly was its vaccine diplomacy, our State government was clueless about a vaccination plan. 

Proper planning could have ensured full first round vaccination of atleast 45+ population and we could have been well into an advanced stage for 18+ immunisation too. Decentralised Immunisation involving local bodies, panchayats, resident associations etc will enable quicker and smoother vaccination process. 

Mass immunisation centres have proved to be superspreader events and should not be repeated.

Pandemic lockdown should be supplemented with welfare measures to help people in overcoming the financial crunch of lockdown. Shrinking away from the responsibility of people’s welfare reflects inefficacy of government to protect its people in times of strife.

Our doctors, nurses and related health workers are overexposed, over-strained and totally stressed out by the ever increasing Covid spike. Many are infected thus reducing the strength our crucial defence. With our limited medical infrastructure and inevitable staff crunch in medical fraternity, it would be wise to seek the help of Army Medical Corps and the Naval Installation in Goa. Requisitioning of railway isolation coaches should also be effected before its late. 

With government hospitals filling up, Goans from even marginalised backgrounds will be forced to take recourse in private hospitals. This necessitates a control mechanism over the hospital fees, room rents, ICU, oxygen & other facility charges to make these private hospitals affordable to common man. 

The present curfew despite its limitations offers the administration an opportunity to take control of the situation and initiate remedial action. Only if government comes out with a decisive control over the Covid spike can the curfew method be termed effective. Hence the entire administration should put their best efforts in the better interests of Goan people.

Centre should drop the Centralised Rationing Approach in providing pandemic facilitation be it oxygen or vaccination. States should be assisted on need basis. The inaction of both Centre & States has forced concerned citizens to approach the courts to demand proactive functionality of Government. 

That the world is already talking of Third Wave when the second wave is yet to peak is reason enough for devising a long term Covid strategy on national basis. Goa too should also wake up to the emergent needs of the times. If not, Goans will again be sacrificed. 

Our country has a poor history of voluntary restrictions and hence it becomes all the more pertinent that Centre & States impose strict total lockdowns.

Home quarantine violators should be punished with heavy fines and followed up with repercussive action at a later stage. Similar action should be taken against all violators. Covid protocol violations should be considered as a disqualification for government service.

We the people should also understand that our responsibility as citizens is in no way diluted by the inefficacy of our government. Irrespective of government’s policy, its the patriotic duty of every citizen to strictly observe masking, sanitisation, social distancing and stay home obeying the curfew. 

It’s only by collective action that we can defeat the Covid virus. Together we can and we will overcome!

(The writer is Member of the Legislative Assembly from Porvorim)

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