Hidden Transmitters

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Health authorities must track down and check all with travel history for virus

THE state government has extended the lockdown till the end of this month. The extension was cleared by the state cabinet on Tuesday, one day before the three-day lockdown was to be over. The extension took people by surprise as it came after the closing of the hours during which buying of groceries, fish, milk and other essentials was allowed. How people wished the government had given them some more time to buy essentials for a longer period! After Sunday’s ‘janata curfew’ was extended by three days, people had some problems taking care of the needs for essentials, so the government relaxed the lockdown between 6 am and 11 am. Justifying the latest lockdown of his government, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has said that people in the state were not taking the threat of coronavirus seriously and violating the directions issued by the government to stay at home and avoid crowds. No one could disagree with him that only a stricter regime and enforcement of law would help discipline people and help prevent spread of coronavirus.

If people do not take the threat from coronavirus seriously and carry on their life as usual, it could lead to community transmission which could be catastrophic for a country of high population density like India. That some people lacked a sense of responsibility could be seen from overcrowding at the shops that opened in the morning in Goa on Tuesday following the relaxation of curfew by the government. People overcrowded most of the shops, risking their own health and that of others. Nobody was heeding shopkeepers’ warnings not to form a crowd and stand from each other at a distance. A popular supermarket in Panaji, however, ensured that there was no overcrowding in it and lined up people neatly to ensure that they buy the items without any risk of contracting coronavirus. Had the people taken precautions they perhaps could have ensured their own safety and the extension of the lockdown could have been avoided. The risk taken by some to their benefit has proven detrimental to others who returned home seeing crowds with a hope to get the items on the next day.

A stricter lockdown will help contain the spread of the disease. However, the government should take care that the people are given enough time to prepare for a long clampdown, so they can be prepared to buy essentials. Now that the government has announced 100 percent lockdown, it is necessary that they implement it, but at the same time should ensure that people, especially the poorer sections, are not forced to go without essentials. The Chief Minister has announced that the government would ensure supply of essentials to the needy and a system for this would be worked out in a couple of days. It remains to be seen how the government would ensure supplies to the people. Will the essentials be home delivered? Are the authorities aware of the people in need of the food items? Attempts to get out of houses to buy items could invite strict action from the authorities and should be avoided.

With the virus not yet contained, it is necessary that the health authorities mobilise doctors and health workers to track down all those who have returned from travel abroad and check them for any symptoms. Health workers have to be sent out to the homes of those people to collect samples for testing. It is as much necessary to identify and restrain the transmitters of the virus as it is to prevent the transmission by imposing 100 percent lockdown. The Chief Minister himself has said that though not a single positive case of coronavirus has been detected yet in Goa there is a possibility of some afflicted persons not being tracked. The health authorities should follow up the Chief Minister’s warning by sending out health workers to track and check those still untraced for any symptoms of the virus.  No one should be spared. We are fighting a war. We cannot win this war without the health authorities tracking down the hidden transmitters of the virus. Such persons on their own must come out and get themselves checked.