RISK: Many Goans in their passion for getting fresh cheap fish rush toward the fishing nets and forget about physical distance, that Covid-19 is all around!
By Rajan Narayan
The younger generation regardless of whether they are Goans or tourists take the Covid-19 directive of maintaining physical distance very casually. This is particularly evident at fast food joints like Café Coffee Day, Carasid, Baba au Rhum and so on. Even Goan adults forget all about physical distancing when they hear that a big catch of fish has landed on Caranzalem beach!
AS Dr Ira Alemeida, former superintendent of the Hospicio hospital and for a while doctor in charge of ESI Covid-19 hospital points out that maintaining physical distance can literally be a matter of life and death. Maintaining physical distance is far more important than wearing a mask. This is because Covid-19 virus spreads through body fluids. Primarily, sweat and droplets of water which rush out of sneezing nose or coughing and constant rough talk. If any of the wet droplets from a person who has the coronavirus infection symptoms fall on you, the chances are certain you’ll catch the infection.
A mask properly worn will protect you. It may prevent the droplets from falling on surfaces nearby which a non-Covid-19 person may touch. Given the fact that Indians are an uncivilized race and will spit anywhere and everywhere the chances of Covid-19 spreading are very high. I was shocked when what appeared to be human spit fell on me when I was walking back after visiting a street corner chemist. All Indians, poorest or richest, are painters and have a compulsion to spread their spit from chewed betel leaf or tobacco or whatever from their mouth everywhere and anywhere. Clearing of throats and noses is very common and you may see the evidence on stairways and walls of any public building or facility.
Last week I happened to walk to a come lately ice cream and bistro parlor called Baba au Rhum. It has the reputation of being among the best pizza and Italian gelato ice-creams in Goa. Many Goans go all the way to Arpora-Anjuna to their pizzas. It is run by a foreigner who we thought would be a little more cautious about implementing Covid-19 guidelines on maintaining physical distance in his fast food outlet at Miramar (where the old Carasid used to be).
At Baba au Rhum I was totally shocked to see young people, not even in their 20s crowding around the cashier’s to pay for their gelato or fancy coffees, etc. Forget about maintaining a meter’s distance they were not even maintaining one foot distance. Many of the kids were not even wearing masks. When a waiter who has worked with this outlet for over three years was queried about drugs, he replied with bindaas cheerfulness that what’s the problem, most everyone consumes drugs these days in Goa! Sanitizing of tables and counters may be happening but too indifferently and food was served on wood platters.
But a lack of serious consciousness over the rising graph of coronavirus infection in Goa is true and not only vis-a-vis Baba Au Rham — but all the fast food outlets which have re-opened in Panaji and the whole of Goa where life is returning to normal as in the old days. Young customers come together to crown at food counters and at public places where you pay before or after you have been served. Or where you collect your parcels. At Baba au Rhum there are some fancy looking chairs and tables but these are so crowded together that barely within a few inches like at Rasoda or at most of the north Indian food outlets.
AT FOOD OUTLETS
EVERY morning between 8 to 9am along with a 50% discount you can get as many unprotected coronavirus consumers as you wish for free. I am talking about Navtara, Panaji’s popular Goan Udipi near the market. It is run by a Catholic family of vintage quality. Even in the normal course it stays crowded. So you can imagine the chaos during the hour long discount time when you breakfast discount of 50%. Of course you also add to the risk of picking up Covid-19 if there are families of beggars from outstation parked outside or near Navtara which is offering a charity incentive to customers who may pay for Rs40 coupons for free food to whoever needs it. These purchased Rs40 coupons may be given to whoever you think is poor and cannot buy food, they may call at Navtara.
As far as we know all the restaurants in Panaji and the rest of Goa are operate in a similar manner. In theory they are supposed to operate only to 50% of their capacity. Customers are supposed to maintain a distance of one meter between the tables. I have never seen it being practiced. Everyone is welcome with or without masks. The situation becomes worse as the chances of droplets from anyone sneezing or coughing are nearby are real in low cost restaurants. How do you eat and drink with a mask on, naturally everyone takes them off to drink and eat even in restaurants. When you take off your mask what is the guarantee that you won’t sneeze or talk enthusiastically enough for some spit to land on the neighboring table.
WE agree with Dr Ira Almeida that it is very important to maintain a distance of one meter. To minimize the risk of infection during these Covid-19 contagion times. But these are the most impractical guidelines to stay safe at home or outside the home! Given the facts about real estate prices and whether it is people who run an office or shop, they is always the tendency to cram in people beyond the limit recommended. This is true not only of private offices but even government establishments.
Indeed, government offices including police stations and RTOs are among the most crowded places. Recently, employees of the Goa Secretariat insisted that they will report for work only every alternate day as it is impossible to maintain one meter distance. What do you do if you are operating a factory, even a multinational company like Nestle’s or Hindustan Lever, how do you organize assembly lines to ensure a meter distance?
COVID-19 may not infect or kill you if you are a good and follow maximum rules and stay a meter’s distance from everyone. But this kind of distancing can snatch away your livelihood. It can render you jobless. Forget about ordinary commercial and public sector officers, even in newspaper offices many employers are asking employees to stay home and work with a minimum salary. Newspaper and government offices which are primarily into paper or computer work can get their employees to work for home nowadays. If they do not have computers or smart phones at home they can be supplied the same. If several lakh of students were given laptops free there is no reason why government employees should not be given laptops to use at home for free, so that they can work from home on days they do not come to office. We have to find an alternative to the one meter distance rule which protects from coronavirus contagion but robs you of the means of livelihood.