28 Jun 2020  |   05:44am IST

Global Goans look at COVID spike in homeland

For the first two months of the nationwide lockdown, Goa had been the envy of other states, with the coveted Green Zone status for the entire state after a handful of COVID patients had recovered from the virus. This surge in COVID cases has not only alarmed people in Goa but has also caused considerable anxiety among Goans all over the world, especially since most of them have loved ones in Goa and at growing risk to contract the virus. The Melbourne based former journalist and current health professional, originally from Vasco speaks to Goans across the globe
Global Goans look at COVID spike in homeland

It was all good at home. Zero COVID cases, a dedicated COVID hospital whose doctors could actually take a small break when not a single patient was in their hospital. Across the world, the Goan diaspora would speak about their homeland with relief and touch of pride

But since the beginning of this month, that comfort zone quickly changed into a COVID zone, when a few cases in Mangor Hill in Vasco rapidly shot up and spread across the State and by Friday, had crossed the 1,000 mark. And while the number of cases is nowhere near the daily averages of other states, it must be kept in mind that the entire state of Goa’s population is less than some areas or containment zones in one city in Maharashtra- Mumbai

These concerns are now being voiced by the Goan diaspora right from the USA to the UK and from Australia to New Zealand.

Journalist Lui Godinho, who spent some time in Vasco before moving to the UK a few decades ago is concerned that food and medical supplies to those in need could run low with increasing COVID cases in Goa.

“Areas around Birla and Zuari Nagar near Vasco are a tinder box waiting to explode. Apparently, it seems many people infiltrated into Goa through porous and hidden routes, avoiding checks along controlled borders,” said Godinho.

“With our ruling political heads buried in the sand and living in a bubble of theories that all looks good, only time will prove them wrong. Immediate action must be taken by the Goa government,” opined Godinho.

Effie Tavares, who is based in New York, USA, insists no one should compare coronavirus to leprosy.“Covid-19 is a strong viral infection which can be cured with antibiotics and moreover, with home remedies like steam (though not directly from kettle but from a vaporizer), lemon, honey, ginger and garlic tea, hydration (lots of water), gargling with salt water, eating well (as most patients lose the sense of taste), antibiotics and also ensuring the oxygen levels don’t go below 90 (a home testing kit will help),” said Tavares.

Tavares pointed out that several of her colleagues, who are registered nurses in the US and had contracted Covid-19, had treated themselves with these remedies.

“There are, however, concerns about high risk and vulnerable population and it’s important to consider age in the context of a person’s overall health.”

“If a friend or family member is considered high risk, know that he/she is likely to take extra precautions to stay safe. At the end of the day, there’s nothing like meeting a loved one in person, but do a video call instead, for your safety and to avoid infecting those who are more vulnerable to the virus,” Tavares added.

Calisto Vaz, who is based in New Zealand, always compares his adopted country with Goa, “but my heart has been always and will always be in Goa” He adds  “What amazes me ( about New Zealand) is that the people and their leaders are so possessive of their country and take care of the country for future generations.”

“When COVID cases were first identified in NZ, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden put citizens on short notice to prepare for a nationwide lockdown. All borders were then sealed and all visit visas were cancelled. There was also a call to all Kiwis to return home,” recalled Vaz.“A few flights were operated to bring them back. Every person entering New Zealand was required compulsory test and isolation. Initially, it was home quarantine, but now it is done in hotels.”

“The NZ government launched an app where people know their exact movement. Strict hygiene, sanitation, and social distancing are maintained, while disinfectants, masks, gloves, and other protective aids are provided at every shop and workplace.”

Vaz said there was a lapse when a couple from UK, arriving in New Zealand, were allowed to break the quarantine and attend a funeral on compassionate grounds. They tested positive for COVID and that was enough for the prime minister to activate the armed forces.”

“We are currently on level 1 with everything back to normal, however, every person entering New Zealand is strictly under two weeks quarantine and tested twice. After all, precaution is better than cure,” he said.

Melbourne-based Francis Fernandes claimed the world had been turned upside down due to COVID.“I am worried about my family, relatives, and fellow Goans, but if we stay positive in this negative situation, we will overcome the pandemic,” said Fernandes.

He also voiced concern over the plight of many Goan seafarers, who are still stranded overseas. “Although many of these seafarers have been bought home, I can understand what their families have been through. Besides, if and when life returns back to normal for these seafarers, it may take at least 1-2 years to return to their ship.”

While Fernandes yearns to visit Goa every couple of years, he is painfully aware that his next visit to Goa will not take place anytime soon. “Though I have settled in Australia, my heart is still in Goa. I love to visit Goa every two years but with the current situation in India, I may have to wait another 2+ years. The concept of social distancing is hard to implement in Goan and in India due to our population and besides, most people don’t care about this rule.”

“I know it is easy to say ‘stop all migrants coming to Goa’, but they also need to find work and feed their families. I do hope the Goa government will teach them certain basic values, especially the benefit of social distancing and hygiene,” summed up Fernandes.

Angela Pereira from Perth appealed to the government and authorities to be transparent, respectful and simplify COVID testing for families.

“Don't make life harder than it already is, provide financial and mental support where necessary. Have border restrictions, provide self-awareness on the importance of self-distancing, wearing musk, sanitising, etc. and keep our loved ones safe,” suggested Pereira.

Claiming that reports from Goa were conflicting, Greg Carvalho from the UK said people were unsure what is true and what is not true. “I left Goa when I was six months old, brought up in Africa and settled in the UK, so my contact with Goa was my relatives and in the last few years, the tiatrists. So far, with God's blessing, my relatives and the tiatrists are all safe.”

He added, “We had eight tiatrists stranded in UK since March. They are now safely in Goa and have tested negative. It was and is still very difficult for Goans to get back to Goa as there are no direct flights from London to Goa.”

“The evacuation came with problems of uncertainty due to clearances required to travel from Mumbai to Goa to be quarantined, the number of days one had to stay in hotels, the expenses of which had to be borne by the travellers” said Carvalho.

These were voices of Goans, who hearts beat for their homeland. At the same time, they have given us an insight into how some of the government in their adopted lands works. Lessons that Goa should learn too.


Iddhar Udhar