Stating that the fight against COVID-19 will be a long one, various stakeholders including from the medical fraternity, top bureaucrats, industry, travel sector and farmers community in Goa opined that it is paramount to extend the lockdown beyond April 14, but it must be in transparent manner and taking everybody into confidence and should not be an overnight decision.
They also suggested that the state government should refrain from opening the state borders immediately and added that the government must intimate the general public well in advance so that there is no panic among the people.
Speaking to ‘The Navhind Times’ on Tuesday, various stakeholders were unanimous that the lockdown which has been imposed in the state in the wake of COVID-19 should not be lifted fully after April 14 and the state government should take decision by adopting holistic approach and with all precautions.
The medical fraternity, which is in forefront in the fight against COVID-19, suggested that the government can ease restrictions; however it should continue to bar entry of people from outside the state.
“If the government throws open the borders then it will prove to be a disaster…people coming in might harbour the virus and all the efforts of the multiple departments including health authorities to contain the spread of the virus will go in vain,” said a highly-placed source in the health department.
The source said that if people start entering in large numbers then not only we may witness a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases but we may also see community transmission of COVID-19 in Goa.
“As per news reports, two-three airlines are taking bookings for domestic flights starting April 15, this is bad news, I also learnt that Indian Railways has also started taking bookings…this should stop immediately,” the source said.
A senior doctor of the Goa Medical College and Hospital said that the government has taken all required steps so far, adding, “It should assess the situation from all aspects before taking any decision on lifting the lockdown.”
“Very less number of people has been tested…testing is the key here… and we need more aggressive COVID-19 testing,” the doctor said.
State Indian Medical Association chapter president Dr Samuel Arawattigi also stressed on the need to intensify the testing and screening of suspected patients for COVID-19.
“We ought to see that maximum respiratory illness-related patients, elderly, diabetic patients and suspected COVID-19 patients are tested at the earliest, this will make things clear whether the spread of the virus is there or not,” Dr Arawattigi said.
He praised the government for extending the rapid testing facilities to four more centres in Goa.
“After April 14 we can lift lockdown but with restrictions, We can start by ensuring that social distancing and other precautions are taken by everybody. The public should adhere to the guidelines and cover their face whenever they are out, they should use sanitiser and apart from this the state borders should remain sealed for some more time,” the state IMA president said.
Senior officials in the state administration said that the government has put in all its efforts to contain the spread of virus in the state and is putting in place required facilities.
A senior official in the administration section maintained that looking at the national scenario and the spread of COVID-19 in some states, the Goa government should continue with the restrictions that have been imposed to maintain social distancing so as to curb the spread of virus.
He said that it is the state government which has to take the final call on extending lockdown or lifting it in phased manner with certain restrictions.
Another couple of bureaucrats, who were of the same opinion, stated that until the state sees zero cases of COVID-19, the efforts of curbing the spread of virus should continue.
Self employed and small scale business community members also felt that the restrictions that have been put in the state should continue until everything becomes normal.
However, they said that the government should also ensure that self-employed people like them, who totally depend on day-to-day business and also helping families of their employees, should not suffer.
The honorary secretary of Goa chapter of travel agents association of India Valigno Dias said that the government must take decision in a very transparent manner and it should be firm one so that there is no panic among the public.
Farmers especially in traditional cashew cultivation, said that the government should focus on containing the spread of virus, but should also look into their problems that they have been facing due to lockdown and come out with a solution.