Nadia Menezes;The opening up of Goa to its natives coming from other places has led to the tiny Green Zone registering COVID-19-positive cases and its local population seeing red over the development. With the arrival of 417 seafarers from Italy in three batches on Wednesday, there is nervous tension among the locals, even though many families are pleased that their boys are back“No one can stop a person who is stranded from coming back home, but it is the responsibility of every citizen to ensure that the virus does not spread,” says Kirti Rege, a Margao-based architect.Emphasizing that “life is not normal at the moment”, the mother-of-two says her own regimen when outdoors includes wearing a mask, using sanitizers, using tissue paper to open doors and touch common surfaces and maintaining the mandated social distance.“Right now we all need to think that every person we meet is Covid-19-positive. Only then will we maintain the protocols that will enable us to stay safe and ensure our families and society at large is safe,” says the 44-year-old.
Can’t deny Goans from coming home but they shouldn’t put other Goans at riskDr Sidney Pinto do Rosario, a senior gynaecologist from Porvorim, says, “Since I am a son of Goa, I feel I cannot deny other Goans from returning to their motherland, especially in these difficult times, far from their loved ones. I also feel that they should not be allowed to put other Goans at risk.”
Quarantine for 21 days even for those who test negativeWanting the returnees to be tested for Covid-19 the moment they land in the state, (which has been done) he suggests that even those who test negative should be placed in quarantine for 21 days, rather than 14, before being allowed to proceed to their homes. “If the disease spreads in the community it will be uncontrollable,” says the septuagenarian.
Longer period of quarantine needed since seafarer from Mumbai tested positive in Goa after testing negative in MumbaiExplaining the leaning towards a longer quarantine period, a government doctor, wishing not to be identified, says the incubation period of the virus is being debated given that the seafarer who returned to Goa after completing a quarantine of 14 days in Mumbai tested positive in Goa. The young doctor suggests a quarantine of 28 days.
Stagger the returnees, all don’t need to come on one dayHe also wants the government to stagger the number of returnees. “Instead of 417 persons returning on the same day, they could have flown in 100 people every week over four weeks.” This, he feels, would enable the state to use its limited healthcare resources better.The full quarantine period has to be respected strictly “You have an entire team of healthcare workers and other frontline workers who came in contact with the person being quarantined as well. Now, when there is a shortage of these workers they are pulled out of quarantine after just a week if they have not shown any symptoms. This jeopardizes the health of all frontline workers,” says the doctor.
COVID negative confirmation at the point of departure is criticalCosme Araujo of Verna, who has been working throughout the lockdown in a factory manufacturing an essential product, says, “There should be no issue with people returning to Goa. But all procedures and protocols should be strictly followed, including obtaining a COVID-negative result from the point of departure, submitting to a comprehensive COVID test once in Goa and staying strictly quarantined for the specified period in the official quarantine centres in Goa.”He stresses, “During this time, no contact with the outside world, including families is to be permitted. Once this is done and cleared, we as a society, should not look at them differently, but allow them to continue with their lives as any of us would; under the present circumstances.”A seafarer who returned to Goa just before the first lockdown and underwent a 14-day self-quarantine since his flight had included then Covid-troubled Dubai, says those stranded in foreign countries are finding it very difficult to manage and should be allowed to come home.
There should be only one point of entry and exit into Goa“If they and their families cooperate with the government and follow properly the standard operating procedures for the tackling of Covid-19 there should be no spread of the disease,” he says. However, he adds, the government needs to incorporate one more safety measure—“There should be just one point of entry and exit for every mode of travel in both districts of the state and this should be not just for returnees but also for delivery of all types of goods. In the case of the latter, vehicles within Goa can be used to cart these goods from the entry points into the rest of the state.”
Set up quarantine centres near the points of entry and exitIn the fervent hope of breaking the chain of the spread of the virus, he suggests that the government set up quarantine centres near the points of entry and exit, so that a person’s contact with the more populated parts of the state are delayed. This he feels will enable life in Goa to continue as close to normal as possible in the present circumstances. “Ultimately, we need to find a balance between saving lives and saving the economy,” he says in conclusion.