Goa was proactive in handling Covid 19 cases: Chief Minister
Goa Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant said that the state handled Covid 19 cases in a proactive manner leading to it become the first Covid free state of the country. He also said that being an educated society, people of Goa cooperated with even harsh measures taken by the government to contain the spread of the deadly disease. The state is undertaking all possible measures to prevent the disease from recurring but admitted it as a hard task. Excerpts from the interview to Matrubhumi online.
Goa discharged its last Covid 19 patient on April 20, 24 days after it reported its first case on March 27. How was this possible?
Goa was proactive in dealing with Covid-19, and undertook various control measures for early lockdown and ring fencingof the State, and worked towards harsh containment strategies. The recovery of all the patients has also been possible due to the sheer hard work of our medical team at the COVID Hospital and the support staff.
Goa is our country's prime tourist destination and according to the latest available data, 8 million tourists arrived in Goa in 2018. Its a pretty large number and the possibility of Covid spreading is high. How were you able to contain it.
After the PM announced the Janata Curfew on March 22, our State went into a complete lockdown. We continued the lockdown even after the one-day Janata Curfew was lifted till the PM announced a nationwide lockdown on March 25. This early containment strategy helped.Also, being an informed population, the people of Goa cooperated with these Government measures.
Since then, the foreign tourists have been systematically evacuated, in close coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs and their respective countries. Till date, more than 6600 tourists from over 35 countries have been safely evacuated out of the State. Also, all support was provided to the domestic tourists who were stranded in Goa, for ensuring their comfort during the lockdown.
With all seven patients recovering fully,what are the measures taken to continue with this state of affairs?
Our aim is to maintain the status of COVID free state, though we know it’s a herculean task. We are following the guidelines issued from time to time by the MHA, though at times our measures are stricter than the MHA norms. People of Goa have given an overwhelming response to the crisis by following all health, sanitation as well as social distancing norms, and have respected the various measures taken by the State in compliance to the MHA instructions.
Every individual who enters Goa is being subjected to a compulsory Covid-19 test, and till the test results are received, they are kept in institutional quarantine.
Till March 29, 2020 Goa did not have its own testing facility and all samples were being sent to Mumbai or Pune, either by Commercial flights or by special Naval flights. Goa has since ramped up its testing infrastructure and now has 5 fully functional labs in its various health centres, and two more will become functional soon and is likely to increase further within a fortnight. We want to be over prepared to handle the crisis.
Also, house-to-house survey has been done in the entire State, to identify Influenza like illnesses, and all such cases are now being tested to rule out the possibility of Covid-19.
Goa has set up kiosks at various places where people can walk in and test? How effective is this and do you feel that results are showing up?
12 Kiosks have been given to the State as a CSR measure, and have been installed at some of the border check posts, at a few hospital locations and 4 of them at Mormugao Port Trust at Goa (for collecting samples of the incoming Sea farers). These Kiosks are for safe collection of samples by the health professionals at the entry points of the State and at Hospitals, without use of PPE. It also helps to keep the person’s movement in check to contain any possible spread in case the patient is positive, and avoid unnecessary travel by the person as the sample is being collected at source.
Are you equipped with any eventuality of the disease coming back? How many hospitals are there and are there dedicated Covid hospitals?
Towards this cause, the ESI Hospital in Margao has been designated as the dedicated COVID Hospital in Goa with a bed capacity of 60, all of which have ventilator support. Our medical team is alert and is fully equipped to handle any kind of crisis arising due to this pandemic.Adequate testing infrastructure in the State hasbeen set up and scaled up. Also, we can now increase the testing infrastructure at a short notice.
The opposition has come out against you mixing Ayurveda with Allopathy in the treatment of Covid. Your comments?
While there is no known medicine or vaccine as of now, the most effective measure to fight Covid or for that matter any disease is enhancing body’s natural defence systems, i.e. its immunity. It is important that our immune system remains vibrant and strong. PM has also endorsed the guidelines of the AYUSH Ministry of Govt of India for boosting the immunity of an individual and preventive health measures. I will advise the opposition to work in a constructive way to deal with this crisis and not spread any misinformation.
Covid cases in the country is on a rise and there is possibility of lockdown being lifted immediately. Do you feel more people coming to the State will lead to an increase in cases. If so, what are the measures adopted to counter this?
Govt of Goa has maintained that the inter-State borders should continue to be sealed, entry should be regulated, and lockdown should be extended in a measured way, especially because the COVID19 cases in neighbouring States of Goa are rising continuously.At present all the borders of Goa remain sealed and movement of only essentials is permitted.We hope and pray that the situation in other States also improves quickly.
I am glad the Modi Govt has extended the lockdown till May17, 2020 while ensuring enough measure to start rolling the economic activities in a controlled way.
How is the Covid going to affect the economy of your state and what are your plans to bring life back to normalcy?
This pandemic has adversely affected the economy of every country and our State is not untouched. We have challenges ahead to revive our economy. The primary focus at present is for complete control of COVID-19. If we are able to maintain a COVID free environment, it will help the economic revival as well by enhancing the status of being an attractive safe tourist destination. We have also set up an Economic Revival Committee, which is working to advise the State on possible steps that could be taken for various aspects of our economy,as currently our economy is mostly driven by tourism and mining related activities.
Once the lockdown is lifted, there will be a huge exit of migrant labourers back to their respective states. As a state dependent on migrant labourers, how you will manage?
There is no denying that there will be a huge exit of the labour force, but with COVID-19 situation, the demand for labours will also go down for the next couple of months. However, I am confident that once the situation normalizes,the forces of demand and supply will get the labour force back on track.
You are an Ayurvedic doctor, has this helped you in overcoming the Covid crisis?
Being a doctor, it has greatly helped me to understand the gravity of the situation, and what this can lead to if it goes out of hand. So, as the Chief Minister of the State, we have been working on the side of caution and over preparation, have worked to ensure due control, containment and cure, with free and transparent communication with the people of Goa through the press, and I guess till now it has worked.
Any suggestions to the people of the country to come out of this crisis?
My suggestion to the people would be to strictly follow the norms laid down by the Govt of India as well as by the State Govts from time to time. This war can only be won if people of India are united. I am confident that under the strong leadership of our PM, Shri Narendra Modi ji,together we will tide over this crisis.