How Goa’s COVID Positivity Rate Shot to the Highest in India
There seems to be a discord between CM Sawant and health minister Rane over the handling of the pandemic.
The positivity rate of COVID cases in Goa — the tiny coastal state with a population of close to 18 lakhs – has shot up to an unprecedented scale since late April.
Compared to early March, when the positivity rate was hovering at 5-7 per cent, the infection rate shockingly breached the 50-per cent mark by 30 April, making the popular tourist destination to become the state with the highest COVID positivity rate. This means that one out of two people in Goa tested positive for Covid.
Only eight other states have a positivity rate of over 25 per cent, including West Bengal (34.4 per cent) and the Union Territory of Puducherry (42.8 per cent), according to the Union Ministry data.
But even though it showed a minor dip to 46 per cent around 11 May, the state is now starting to crumble under the crisis.
Currently, as the active cases soar beyond 32,000, there have been daily reports of Covid-related deaths in the state. Since the first week on May alone, at least 600 people have died of the infection. Of this as many as 77 deaths at least were reported from the state-run Goa Medical College and Hospital — Goa’s largest Covid-facility, over an oxygen supply shortage.
On 10 May, 28 people died in the hospital between 2 am and 6 am, allegedly due to an oxygen shortage. The death toll in the state continued to rise in successive days. On 11 May, 20 more patients were reported dead. Just a day later, 15 more died, and then on 14 May, 13 patients lost their lives.
As infection spiked in major cities in the state, the recovery rate was logged around 71 per cent, at least 10 per cent below the national average.
How Did Goa Come to This Abysmal State?
While the civic body polls that were held in April are suspected to have contributed to the rise in infections, critics also blamed the state administration’s lackadaisical attitude towards COVID restrictions for this situation.
A report on The Print also pointed out that COVID-positive Independent candidate Arthur D’Silva was seen campaigning for the Margao municipal polls until he was booked under the Epidemic Diseases Act.
Until a couple of months ago, this tourism hotspot was open to all and allowed gatherings on beaches, even as the country was staring at the second COVID wave, especially in its neighbouring states, like Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The state government only started imposing some restrictions from 21 April and is currently under a full lockdown till 23 May.
In an interview with CNN on 7 May, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said, “Opening up of tourism without any restrictions in December led to this situation.”
“Everybody was taking things for granted. No one was following social distancing. Masks are something that you cannot do away with,” he said, adding that the rise in tourism, especially during the festive period, gave rise to potential “super-spreader events”.
Rane appeared to be blaming the late imposition of lockdown as well for the rise as he told CNN that there had been an error of judgment by the administration.
“Imposition of the lockdown 15 days ago was too late. We needed the lockdown more than a month ago. Sometimes, administratively, economically, we need to take decisions striking a balance. Sometimes, as administrators, we make errors in judgements and I think this was one of those cases. At the moment, we are managing, but I am not very happy with the situation,” Rane said.
Health Minister and CM at Loggerheads
Moreover, while the BJP government is getting a lot of flak over its negligence in this crisis, there seems to be a political discord between Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and health minister Vishwajit Rane over the handling of the pandemic.
Rane, a Congress turncoat, attributed the COVID-deaths due to an oxygen shortage in the state while Sawant claimed that there was adequate oxygen, but it was not well distributed.
Amid the tussle, the Bombay High Court bench in Goa stepped in on 13 May to enquire about the state’s oxygen supply and rebuked the government for violating Article 21. It also directed the Centre to supply the allotted (26 MT) oxygen quota to Goa.
As some redemptive measures, the state now intends to use the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to treat COVID-19.
Rane said that people will be given 12 mg of Ivermectin for five days as protection against COVID. However, there isn’t sufficient data to prove if that the drug can be used for prophylactic treatment.
On 11 May, Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, tweeted against recommending this drug. “Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication. WHO recommends against the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 except within clinical trials,” she wrote.
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