Govt can’t protect you from Covid. Do it for yourself!

By Ashwin Tombat
16 August 2020 12:24 IST


On Thursday 13 August, both Goa (570) and India (66,999) recorded their highest-ever 24-hour increase in Covid-19 infection cases. Goa’s total infections crossed the 10,000 mark. Is the Covid-19 pandemic out of control now?

There’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is, both infections and deaths continue to mount each day. Television news anchors optimistically tell you how the number of recoveries has gone up. It sounds great, but it isn’t. Among the five countries with the highest number of cases, India's recovery rate is the second-lowest.

What they also don’t tell you is that the number of active cases is going up. India had over 6.61 lakh active cases, while Goa had 3,491 active cases on Thursday 13 August; both were their highest ever.

There are no signs of a plateau, let alone a down-curve.

The good news is that India’s Rt value or rate of transmission – a measure of how many people each Covid-infected person spreads the disease to – is falling. On Friday 14 August, it was 1.05. If it drops below 1, cases will start to plateau and the pandemic will come under control.

On paper, Goa isn’t doing well. It has the fifth-highest Rt value at 1.22, and the third-highest positivity rate at 16.97 per cent, even higher than India’s undisputed Covid champion Maharashtra (16.43 per cent).  

But Goa is India’s undisputed testing champion, with 1,00,336 tests per million. It is followed by Ladakh (81,066), Arunachal Pradesh (75,698) and Dadra & Nagar Haveli (72,722) and Delhi (67,238). Neighbouring Maharashtra (24,208) and Karnataka (27,860) lag far, far behind.

This means that Goa’s Covid-19 numbers are transparent. Other states may have lower figures, but they probably have large numbers of undetected cases. It also shows that the state’s Health Department officials and medical personnel on the frontlines have been working very hard. It is not their fault.

The fact, however, is that the government can no longer protect you. You must do it for yourself. All you need are three great tools – mask, hand sanitiser and physical distancing.

A study by Duke University in the US has revealed that the best face mask is an N95 mask without a valve (a mask with a breathing valve doesn’t prevent you from infecting others). Woven coverings and bandanas are the least effective. Three-layered surgical masks were second, and three-layered cloth masks were third.

Cloth masks need be washed regularly. But N95 (or KN95) masks should not be washed at all. Their filter fabric is electrostatically charged to attract and trap 2.5micron particles. If they get wet, this charge disappears and, with it, their ability to filter out the tiniest droplets of virus infection is lost.    

If you want to use N95 masks, buy three per person. Take out one to use each day by turn. At night, put it in a paper bag (not plastic). Use it again only after you have used the other two for a day at a time each, and put them away in paper bags as well. The 48-hour downtime for each mask ensures you don’t get infected by any viruses that may have accidentally got onto the mask.

A mask is your most formidable weapon against the virus. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have found that even if a mask is not 100 per cent effective but just reduces the ‘viral inoculum’ – the amount of virus one inhales into the respiratory system – it is likely to produce a very mild or totally asymptomatic infection. Barring a weak immune system, this enables the body to generate an immune response to the virus, without causing full blown Covid-19. A good mask can actually act like a ‘poor man’s vaccine’! 

Hand sanitiser must have at least 70 per cent alcohol content; preferably 80 per cent. Always carry a tiny bottle in your pocket. Read the small print on the side of the bottle to make sure it has enough alcohol content. Some ‘Ayurvedic’ hand sanitisers have just 60 per cent alcohol; avoid them. Use the hand sanitiser every time you touch a surface, door handle, staircase railing or button that someone else might have touched. Keep a large bottle of 80 per cent alcohol hand sanitiser at home, and top up your pocket bottle regularly.

Keep your distance from others. Don’t get into crowded situations. If your workplace makes you sit too close to your colleagues, speak up; ask to work from home. At a shop or supermarket, don’t crowd or push. Just wait. It’s better to be late than to be infected.

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

Tombat, Isn't the Govt. doing enough already? They come and test you at your home, pick you up for free and put in you a Hospital at Tax payer cost in socialist style health care. Isn't that enough protection? Look at what is happening in the US. You fend for yourself. Stand in a big line for the test, results will come after 15 days and so on. You are much better off in India. Educate the asses that are masses, who have no respect for hygiene and have this 'chalta hai' attitude. They are the ones more responsible this mess. Of course, Goan politicians are donkeys too.

- JK Noronha, NY-USA | 21 st August 2020 21:14


Excellent article, very true.

- Christopher Coutinho , Telaulim Navelim Salcete | 17 th August 2020 05:17


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