CM goes ‘Vocal for Local’ (By Ashwin Tombat)

By Ashwin Tombat
07 June 2020 22:51 IST

On Monday, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said that five persons of a family living at Mangor Hill, Vasco, had been diagnosed as Covid-19 positive along with their family doctor.

A few hours later, Health Secretary Nila Mohanan gave a different version. She said only two persons from the family had tested positive in the confirmatory RT-PCR test. The other three family members and the doctor had positive rapid tests, but the results of their confirmatory tests were awaited.

But whether it was two or six, these cases turned out to be the proverbial tip of a large-ish iceberg. On Tuesday, 200 people were tested in the area, of which a staggering 42 (over 20 per cent) were positive. On Wednesday, 353 tests were conducted, of which 32 were positive. On Thursday, 400 tests were conducted of which 26 were positive. On Friday, no tests were conducted; testing was suspended after it was found that eight staff members of the Urban Health Centre, who were conducting the tests, were themselves found Covid positive. But 62 positive results from tests conducted earlier were reported that day.

The government says it is doing very concentrated tracing, establishing links and identifying contacts. And Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant says he is firmly convinced that Goa does not have community transmission of Covid-19.

Instead, he says, what we have is ‘local transmission’.

Let us first understand the difference.

Stage 1 of the disease is through people with a travel history. In this stage, every positive case can be contained and sources traced. In this way, there can be no local spread from those affected.

Stage 2 is local transmission, when those who were infected and/or have a travel history spread the virus to close friends or family. At this stage too, everyone who comes in contact with an infected person can be traced and isolated.

Stage 3 is community transmission, when infections happen in public and a source for the virus cannot be traced. At this stage, wider geographical containment becomes important.

Stage 4 is when the disease becomes an epidemic, as it did in China. There are large numbers of infections and a growing number of deaths. It is then considered to be endemic to the region.

Despite the sizeable number of cases at Mangor Hill, Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant insisted: “This is not community transmission but local transmission as close contacts of the family have tested negative.”

“Someone from the family must have come in or gone outside the state. Corona is not going to come on its own to the area. The family is hiding facts,” Dr Sawant continued. “If they reveal the facts, we will be able to trace the contacts and quarantine them,” he said.

Does the Chief Minister’s ‘local transmission’ tune have anything to do with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call to be “Vocal for Local”?

Even if we accept this bizarre insistence that the ‘first family’ of Mangor Hill is not telling the truth (As if they are going to be ‘punished if they do!), can the Health Department trace the sources of infection of all the other people who have tested positive in the same area to this first family?  

No they cannot. The only ‘connection’ they have traced is that all the cases are “from the same area”. That is not serious contact tracing.

The authorities continue to insist that this is local transmission, despite all the facts pointing to community transmission. The reason is that if they admit that it is community transmission, they may have to lock down the whole of Vasco town, and with it, the railway station and the Mormugao Port.

What is remarkable about the current outbreak is that except two or three, none of the other people who have tested positive have any symptoms of the disease. India’s present Covid testing protocol is to test:

(a) Those who have symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) or Influenza-like Illness (ILI)

(b) Those who have travel history, and

(c) Those who are in direct contact with a Covid-positive person.

It is more than likely, therefore, that a large number of infected individuals in Goa do not develop symptoms and, therefore, never get tested. But they continue to spread the disease…

Reports say that among those who tested positive at Mangor Hill but have no symptoms are an employee of the Kadamba Transport Corporation (KTC), a Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) employee and a Goa Shipyard employee, all of whom were going to work before they tested positive. Then there were the eight workers from the Urban Health Centre. Could they not have unknowingly been spreading this highly infectious disease while at work? So many others must also have been in contact with fellow commuters and co-workers before they were detected.

Of the 30 positive cases discovered on Saturday, half are from outside Mangor Hill. However, the authorities are insisting, that they are all “connected” to Mangor Hill.

Community transmission of Covid-19 is a fact; not just in Goa, but in most parts of India. It does no good to deny this or cover it up. Cover-ups and denial are exactly how and why an infection in just one Chinese city spread into a global pandemic.

Last but not least: Leaders need to set an example. The inauguration function of the Dabolim Airport grade separator saw a gross violation of social distancing norms (see photo). It should never be repeated.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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Previous Comments

The consecrated efforts of the government, be the Union or the State, are, seen to be, just creating a space for themselves, by way of creating tools to enable them for passing the buck to the communities, for buying more and more time, to beneficially hide their incompetences and inability, to tackle the menace, effectively.

These governments have failed in building up the infrastructures to handle the crises, proactively, with just forcing the Lockdowns on the public, without working on and assessing on the probabilities of the viral spreads, and effectively checking such contact menaces.

The government needs to work hard on all sides of spreads with effective measures of controls and post spreads treatments.

Mere psychological word twisting will have no positive results on handling of the menace. There needs to be serious plans to tackle the crisis.

- Anil N Laad , Goa | 08 th June 2020 05:30


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