Took precautions at the right time, says Goa health minister

Interview, Vishwajit Rane, health minister of Goa

Vishwajit-Rane Vishwajit Rane | via Facebook

How has lockdown affected tourism in Goa?
Tourism is a major source of income for Goa. Last year, our state attracted more than 70 lakh tourists from across the world. Even after the lockdown is lifted, the subsequent fear concerning travelling will continue.

I concede that our income will be affected, but we have to make sure tourism is revived only after taking all the precautions. We will ensure that once flight operations resume, only those travellers with a Covid-19 negative certificate will be allowed (into Goa).

Goa was the first state to become coronavirus-free. How did you achieve this?

Goa sprung into action even before the first case was reported. We were one of the first states to implement the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and got into a strict lockdown by sealing borders. We put through systems in place, took all precautions, created a tremendous amount of awareness among the people about Covid-19, and, most importantly, launched our virology lab.

We used a digital bridge to reduce interface between people and doctors. Besides, we launched apps like Covid-Locator, Cobot-19 and Test Yourself Goa.
Some say Goa did not do enough testing. How many tests were conducted?
Testing is continuing on a daily basis. We have expanded our testing bandwidth by introducing Smart Kiosks, which are installed at crucial locations like all borders, Mormugao Port Trust, markets and transits. Besides, we are also conducting surveys where suspects or asymptomatic people are tested. We did not let the number of cases increase by taking the right precautions at the right time. There were no two ways about it.
What measures are being taken to prevent new corona infections?

This is a big challenge for us, as Goa is surrounded by red zone areas, where cases are increasing by the day. We have installed Smart Kiosks at borders, in industrial estates, making sample collection faster and easier. Besides, the government is strictly following the MaskIndia initiative, taking strict action and imposing heavy fines on people who are not wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
We are encouraging the industry to tie up with us in the fight against Covid-19. We are following the guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research. We are talking to experts and drawing our own procedures, within the overall protocol of the country. Goa is also strictly adhering to the guidelines laid by MHA on lockdown 3.0.