An empty Goa street during the curfew Sunday. (Photo: Smita Nair)
AN Angry Pramod Sawant, Chief Minister of Goa, Thursday finally relented to the growing “outrage on social media”, and allowed grocery shops and those selling milk, vegetables and fish to open. Sawant, however, fumed that the lockdown had been imposed for Goa’s welfare, and he now “dreads the future”.
Goa has been in complete lockdown since March 22, 7 am. With shops selling grocery and other essential edible shut, a population of 15 lakh in the state has been caught completely unprepared.
While other states did have a breathing period of a day between the Janata curfew and the total lockdown, Goa remained shut with no prior notice. Sawant finally reversed his orders hours after a petition was filed against the government’s lack of management at the High Court of Bombay at Goa. The Opposition leaders too called up the office of Governor Satya Pal Malik in the interim, asking him to intervene.
“We didn't keep the grocery shops closed for the benefit of the government, but for the people, so that the virus does not transmit among the populace. But some vignsantoshi (malcontent) people exist, who, on social media or on other media, have been making personal allegations against me,” said Sawant. “I'm looking at Goa's interests. I'm worried about the health of the people, which is why I repeat that 100 per cent lockdown should be maintained,” he told reporters at a press conference at his official residence.
Later in the night, the government clarified that only small shops will be allowed to remain open and people can “only walk to them”. No personal vehicles will be allowed.
Goa has till date home-quarantined around 1,500 people, with the government stamping them for identification. “I doubt (now) any one will adhere. They may choose to move out and travel the villages or towns and unsuspecting others will be at risk,” said Sawant. “If tomorrow the virus spreads in Goa, spreads in a big way, please do not blame the government. The responsibility to protect yourself and your family is now on you. Please adhere to guidelines, and ensure social distancing measures are followed.”
Repeatedly saying Goa was a “small state where within eight days to a month you would have met everyone”, Sawant said the 100 per cent lockdown was only to break the chain.
“In each ward (of the villages) there are grocery shops, in the cities they are next to each other. Our aim in keeping them closed was for the lockdown to be successful and social distancing to be maintained. People should not come in contact with each other. As a doctor, I wish to say that according to what I read, I dread what the future holds. As a Chief Minister, I'm requesting you to stay away, you can never say who is transmitting the virus, so please stay at home for the sake of you and your families.”
Saying he finally was “forced to open the shops”, he said people kept complaining of “grocery, grocery, grocery.” “This shows behaviour… people are not willing to suffer even a little. People should have borne it a little for the sake of their health,” he added. “But keeping the needs of the populace in mind and the repeated requests from people that they are not getting milk and vegetables, the government has taken a decision..”
According to CM, the decision of complete lockdown was because between March 21 and March 26, 2,500 people had returned to Goa from abroad and other states.
“Many of them have given wrong information and they are not cooperating. These people are a threat to the people of their village, to their neighbours and others. As a CM, I am saying that these people are responsible."
"Today we have three, tomorrow if the cases spike, these people will be responsible. The government wanted to do a 100% lockdown. People who are making allegations on social media, they will not come on the road, they don't want to come in contact with others. But the common man, who visits the market, he will come in contact with such kind of people. The common man needs to understand that the only way to stay safe is to stay home. The government cannot control this,” Sawant added.
"People have been complaining that if grocery shops are open in other states, why not in Goa. But Goa's situation I'm aware of. If we open grocery shops, 90 per cent Goa is opened. Where is the lockdown then?" Sawant said.
Goa to begin own testing
OF the three who tested positive in Goa, one was “completely asymptomatic”, but got himself tested in Goa Medical College after his friend tested positive in Mumbai, Sawant told reporters Thursday.
“He was completely asymptomatic. He got himself admitted only because his friend reported positive,” Sawant said.
Goa now has three positive cases with travel history to Australia, Spain and USA. All the men are admitted to ESI, Margao, and are stable.
With Goa now tying up with a private lab, and with the health staff expected to return after their training, Sawant said the state will begin its own testing from Saturday.
“The family members of those who tested positive and also those who came in contact with them have been quarantined. We will be getting them tested once the lab facilities open on Saturday. They are in good care and are being nursed according to the health mandates,” Sawant added.
The CM said all those who tested are from different talukas, making it essential to “take social distancing” very very seriously. He also said two other cases have been brought to the government’s attention, where one in Bengaluru and another in Shimla, who had reported positive, returned from Goa.
Since Thursday morning, Government health officials have been visiting three different villages along with all the places the three men visited. The three are reported to have entered Goa on March 16, March 18 and March 20 — and tested positive on March 25. The Government is repeatedly asking those who have travelled and entered Goa in the last two weeks to get themselves tested. Once the laboratory services begin on Saturday — the government expects at least 200 blood samples to be taken a day, if needed.
With partial relaxation, the government now plans to release digital advertisements and recorded messages of Goan celebrities urging locals to stay indoors. The government will monitor the borders with real-time data shared through newly created WhatsApp networks — liasoning between different government bodies.