Over the past weeks testing of arriving passengers and quarantine facilities in Goa have been raising up various issues. While there are locals residents who have objected to the quarantine facilities in their vicinity, there are others, especially among the political class belonging to the opposition benches, who believe that the facility should not be paid for and that is should be made available free by the government. So also is their view on the testing, that it should be free. These are two different issues, and while that of the location of the facilities has already been dealt with in this column last week, the payment part is beginning to attract more attention than it probably deserves, possibly due to political motives.
The arguments against the paid testing and quarantine are that these are Goans who are returning to their home State and that the government should not be making them pay for the mandatory quarantine period as they are already tense, suffering financilly and many are returning after a long period outside the State and have lost their jobs. The opposition, in the hope that their attack on the paid facilities will gain them some brownie points with voters, has been frequently taking up this issue. There, however, is the other side to it. The question that arises is if the people who are returning do not pay for their quarantine period, who should? Is it the government who will do so from the taxes paid by the residents of the State?
The home quarantine is another issue raising questions of a different nature, with neighbours not pleased with the fact that there is a person with a home quarantine stamp on the hand living in their midst, even if this person has tested negative and is in seclusion only because of travel from outside the State. Such ostracisation of arriving travellers is beginning to surface in many parts of Goa, who have then sought for paid quarantine. This has been discussed at the meetings of the State Executive Committee, with the District Collector given the task of creating awareness in such neighbourhoods of the testing protocol so as to make the arriving travellers feel at home.
Domestic air travel will now start from Monday, May 25. Passengers arriving in Goa are being offered the option of undergoing a paid COVID-19 test or staying in home quarantine for 14 days. This is despite the fact that the Centre is not keen on quarantine for short haul flights. What happens when the persons arriving by air reach their homes with their hands stamped with home quarantine dates? Will they meet neighbourhoods that shun them, just because they have arrived from another State? It is possible that there can be carriers of the virus who are asymtomatic and that this can lead to local transmission, which Goa has this far managed to avoid, and which keeps it in the Green Zone.
The responsibility here lies both ways. Those on home quarantine should strictly remain in their home – or rather a room with no contact with the other family members – to avoid any possibility of transmission of the virus in the event that they are carriers. On the other hand, the neighbours, and those in the larger area where the person is home quarantined, should also respect the fact that these are persons who have tested negative and are in quarantine to protect the neighbourhood. However, if the person who is in home quarantie moves out of the house then the neighbourhood has the right to question this. It is only if everybody works together and appreciates the need for cooperation that the coming weeks, which could see a rise in cases, will not turn tumultous.