The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories and Goa has been no exception. Due to issues like lack of infrastructure and human resources, both rural and urban people were caged in the web of grief and misery wherein even to see one’s loved one last time who succumbed to Coronavirus became an act of privilege.
Focusing on the Rural Realities around the country during the pandemic, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities | Goa Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Indian Villages” on May 28, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Mahima Kapoor and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Goa to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
Goa is a state on the south-western coast of India, known as Konkan. Shares borders with the State of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Arabia Sea forms its western coast. It is India’s smallest state and fourth smallest by population, which is 14.59 lakhs according to the 2011 census, with 739140 Males and 719405 Females. The growth of 14.8 percent, from 1991 to 2000, is lower than the 16.08 percent recorded during 1981 to 1990.
The density of population per sq km in Goa is 364 in 2001 as compared to 316 in 1991. North Goa has a much higher density (437) as compared to South Goa (300). The national figure is 324. Around 0.15 to 0.2 million of the total population of 13,43,998 are immigrants from around India who have settled down in Goa.
The population is divided into two districts North and South Goa. North Goa is divided into three sub-divisions and South Goa into five. The official language of the State is Konkani. Goa is a multi-lingual state, thanks to its diverse history of thousands of years, which has seen people of various regions, ethnic races, and religions from India and abroad coming over to and settling in Goa while influencing the local language.
It is a tourist hot-spot for its myriad attractions like flora-fauna, beaches, history, Portuguese architecture, etc. The major rivers flowing through the state are Mandovi, Zuari, Terekhol, Chapora, and Betul. The other major rivers include the Tiracol, Chapora, Sal, and the Talpona. The state has a total forest cover of more than 1,424 sq. km covering almost one-third of the total area. The land is also rich in minerals and ores making mining a prominent industry. Iron Ore mining was banned three years ago due to environmental and health hazards.
Goa leads in per capita income and ranks 7th in Sustainable Development Goals. The State fairs better that national average both in sex ratio and literacy rate. It houses 38 percent of the population in rural areas which is half of the national average. Goa is expected to witness a severe slowdown in its economy due to COVID-19 impacting tourism and entertainment industry.
In the first wave of the pandemic, the state was relatively well placed. The new cases hit the peak at 740 cases on 12 September 2020. Within one month the positivity rate has increased from 0.24 percent to 0.36 percent.
The second wave shows the number of cases to be higher, with the recovery rate falling to 72 percent, one of the poorest. The positivity rate has dropped from 42 percent to 33 percent. The state epidemiologist has said that Goa has crossed the peak of the second wave of Covid-19. The epidemiologist added that there’s no place for complacency till cases dip below 200 a day.
The major proportion of these issues can be attributed too lax by the state. The curfew has been extended to May. So far only 33 percent have received the first dose and 6 percent have been fully vaccinated. Goa is one of the three states with the least wastage of vaccine doses.
The state government has started ‘TikaUtsav’ (vaccination festival) in all panchayats and municipalities. CM Pramod Sawant has announced that vaccination for the 18-45 age group in the future will have on spot direct registration with priority given for lactating mothers and patients with comorbid conditions.
The fatality rate during the second wave rose up to 1.7 percent. These are worrisome statistics, simply because during the first wave fatality had remained low in the State. Estimates show that the state lost approximately 3000 people to COVID 19 in the second wave.
As of 24 May 2021, the COVID-19 tally in Goa reached 1,47,861 with the addition of 1,401 cases, while the day also saw 38 people succumbing to the infection and 2,362 recovering. The state’s death toll stands at 2,421 and the number of people discharged so far is 1,29,162, leaving it with an active caseload of 16,278.
There is a pertinent set of emerging issues faced by the state. The number of hospitals and medical staff had shot up, but there was pressure on ICU beds and testing kits. Vaccination of people in the 18-44 age groups has been suspended due to non-availability.
Between 11 and 16 May, 75 died at Goa Medical College and Hospital due to dropping oxygen levels. Goa Deputy CM launched the ‘Oxygen on Wheels’ service for COVID-19 patients. Amid this Bombay High Court has asked the Centre how it was determining the state’s oxygen quota.
In terms of health infrastructure and manpower, the state decided to give Ivermectin drug to all people above 18 years in Goa, irrespective of their coronavirus status to bring down mortality. The state government also decided to take over the rights to admission in all the 21 private hospitals, for a period of one month.
Shortage of hospital and oxygen has not been reported with the same severity as most other states in India. The state will take time to recover from the economic setback where the key challenge will remain on reviving the tourism sector.
In order to minimize the impact of second-wave and prepare for a third wave, issues of lack of oxygen, health infrastructure, and vaccination, which has also added to the financial burden on most rural as well as urban households, need to be addressed in moving towards healthy and prosperous Goa.
Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Mahima Kapoor, Swati Solanki, Chhavi Kapoor, Arjun Kumar, and IMPRI Team