On April 1, Goa recorded 265 Covid cases. On April 30 it was 3024 cases. When we started the last month, nobody would have thought it possible that the month of April would end with the population living in absolute fright and in a lockdown. But that is where the government’s mismanagement of the pandemic and its lack of preparedness has got us – confined to our homes over the weekend. It may be for a short period of some 81 hours, but is there a guarantee that the pandemic situation will change at the end of the lockdown and will allow free movement again? Anybody believing this would be very sorely mistaken. A three-day period is unlikely to bring down the numbers by any significant amount. But, then also, do lockdowns work?
This is what the Lancet, the peer-reviewed general medicine journal has to say about lockdowns and COVID: “In the initial phase of the pandemic, many countries instituted lockdowns (general population restrictions, including orders to stay at home and work from home) to slow the rapid spread of the virus. This was essential to reduce mortality, prevent health-care services from being overwhelmed, and buy time to set up pandemic response systems to suppress transmission following lockdown.” This is what Herald has been repeatedly stating, that the lockdown is a measure to prepare the medical services for what is coming. We cannot use the lockdown to bring down cases as when we open up again, if we are not prepared, the feeble gains of staying home will be lost.
Goa has to fight the COVID rise scientifically, with proper medical treatment and standard operating procedures that will contain the rise of cases. Has that been done? While the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff are doing a wonderful job in the hospital wards treating the patients with whatever equipment and medicines they have, is the government backing them with infrastructure and other support? The Goa Association of Resident Doctors has publicly spoken of lack of beds, oxygen supply, manpower. They have also threatened to withdraw if there are more instances of abuse or violence from relatives of patients. Can’t the government provide them with the least of security? They are the one who are working the hardest, they are the frontline workers, they require the support of the government and the people of Goa.
Simultaneously, what Goa needs at the moment are hospital beds and ventilators. The social media is full of requests for both. While the Chief Minister and Health Minister urge people to get tested and get admitted to hospitals, do we have the infrastructure to meet the rising cases? Goa does not have it and was just not prepared for the devastating second wave. Even after the wave set in, the government still dawdled in taking decisions. It was only after active cases had risen to 18,000 that the government went into an overdrive of sorts and declared some additional hospitals and primary health centres as dedicated Covid hospitals.
There is no visible strategy in managing the pandemic that should have come from the experience gained during the first wave. Just what were those in power doing all these months? There is a video doing the rounds on social media of the Tourism Minister dancing at a party even while cases kept rising and people were dying. Is this what the politicians are elected for? Or are they elected to legislate and provide governance? There has been none of the latter where the pandemic is concerned. It has been mistake piling upon mistake that has led Goa to this stage. Goa has to act now to reverse the trend of rising cases.