Goa reported 258 cases on July 27, its highest single-day spike in coronavirus cases till date. On average, the state, which would report between 35-40 cases daily in the month of June, now reports almost 150 plus cases daily in July. With the state’s tally crossing 5000 confirmed cases, the Covid-19 graph is nowhere close to being flattened. The three-day complete lockdown earlier this month, aimed at reducing the spread and subsequently flattening the curve, has failed to do so.
The state reported its first local case of the coronavirus infection on June 1 from Mangor Hill in Vasco, which was quickly declared as a containment zone. However, the spread of the virus continued, and Goa reported cases from across different parts, such as Morlem, Sanquelim and Curtorim.
Majority of the cases in the state continue to be asymptomatic, i.e. not displaying any symptoms of the virus. These, which make up the bulk of the cases (almost 80%) reported in the state are the spreaders of the virus that the state government needs to look out for.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States claimed that almost 25 to 45 per cent of the infected people do not likely have symptoms. He added, “We know from epidemiological studies they (asymptomatic patients) can transmit to someone who is uninfected even when they’re without symptoms.”
This basically translates that, besides the symptomatic, the asymptomatic must be also tested in order to really understand the spread of the virus in the state.
Goa’s testing rate per million stands as one of the best in the country, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said on the floor of the house during the one-day monsoon assembly session. This works out to be a good figure, considering the population of the state.
However, many have addressed concerns of delay in getting their test results and being denied testing because they do not display any symptoms.
Some, who were tested in June have still not received any intimation about their test results from the authorities. “I was tested on June 4 at the District Hospital, Margao after arriving by a train from New Delhi and till today I haven’t received any SMS about my test results. I tried reaching out to the authorities, however, there has been no response at all from them,” said Abigail Mendes, a resident of Colva.
She also highlighted concerns as to what if she was to be an asymptomatic carrier having contracted the virus on her journey back. “I am irritated with the way they (health authorities) have handled things,” she said.
Many others have also resounded similar complaints of delays in testing. Another resident of Aldona also said that he received his test results about four days later, after being tested on July 14.
Now, authorities have also slowly shifted from testing everyone, to testing only those displaying symptoms. This, in turn, raises serious questions as to how the state is not just testing enough but is also not testing right. Many asymptomatic carriers of the virus are simply left out from being tested because they just do not display any symptoms.
The state, which usually tests between 2500-3000 daily, has been struggling to maintain a balance in providing results within 24-48 hours, despite Health Minister’s claims on June 14 that with testing ramped up, the wait for the results won’t be over 24 hours.
Samples are being collected across various locations and all this only adds to the delay in getting results, as daily bulletin indicates almost between 5000-6000 pending results.
Health Secretary Nila Mohanan recently said that one new machine at Hospicio hospital and approval for two more at the Ponda will be added to the state’s current capacity of COVID testing.
The lone ESI Hospital in Margao handles the majority of the symptomatic cases, along with those having co-morbid conditions. The rest, asymptomatic, which basically only need to be self-isolated are kept in various COVID care centres.
These care centres are needed across every taluka, more than a COVID hospital, the Health Minister said. The new proposal allowing asymptomatic patients to stay isolated at home has evoked a mixed response, with many addressing issues such as safety of others in the household and also as to who will be monitoring such patients on a daily basis.
The urgent attention needed right now is to ramp up testing and moreover, test asymptomatic persons too. In order to identify and isolate positive patients, the government needs to aggressively test and isolate people with the infection.