Goa govt defends change in Covid-19 testing strategy after backlash

The Goa government on Tuesday defended its decision to relax the mandatory Covid-19 test for people entering the state despite public pressure to continue the practice, saying it would ensure that the state did not lose focus on cases within its boundaries.

Goa’s health secretary Nila Mohanan said that owing to the mandatory 14-day home quarantine, the state was adequately on guard against the disease.

“This is a sustainable and strategic move that we are making because we need to have a very focused approach towards testing. The more samples we keep taking from everyone who comes across the borders we are losing focus on the areas within Goa where we have to look at very specifically,” Mohanan said at a press conference.

“There are other focal points where we need to strategize and ensure that there is no outbreak. We need to see that the cases which are suspected are being tested on time, the results are available on time, so I think a very focused approach is required from now on and the more we load our labs with samples drawn from each and everyone who is entering the state the less we will be able to do a focused mitigation of coronavirus within our state,” Mohanan said.

The government’s decision to make testing only optional for people entering the state was met with derision on social media and by opposition legislators who claimed the government had surrendered in its fights against the virus and was choosing the option of ‘herd immunity’ that would come at a huge cost especially to the vulnerable sections of the society.

“The State government has thrown its hands in the air and is going for herd immunity. Herd immunity can either be achieved by injection (vaccination) or infection. This will come at a huge cost to Goa. The vulnerable people will be very badly affected,” leader of the Goa Forward Party Vijai Sardesai said.

The state government has also changed its earlier strategy of testing everyone in the state’s lone containment zone and is now only focusing on high risk groups within the population even as the fear.

In the first three days since Mangor Hill, a locality in the Port town of Vasco da Gama was declared a containment zone, the state government conducted nearly 500 tests per day and was on course to complete the testing within a week.

Since the weekend, the health department is only conducting 50 tests a day in the containment zone, that have now been restricted to patients with symptoms and those in high risk categories including senior citizens, pregnant women, children under five and those with pre-existing conditions.

Goa has among the highest testing rates in the country with 19,830 tests per million as of June 8, as per data released by the Directorate of Information and Publicity and second only to the Union Territories of Daman, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

On Tuesday Goa reported 29 new cases of Covid-19 among persons connected to the containment zone as well as people entering the state.

Goa’s Covid-19 tally now stands at 359 of which 292 cases are active. On June 1, the state had 44 cases.

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