HIGH RISK: Among the night clubs that celebrated New Year eve was the come lately night club RAUL, built by the owners of the OHeraldo after cutting the mangroves of the backwaters of the St Cruz highway.

By Rajan Narayan

Neither Jesus nor Shanta Durga nor Allah nor any of the other gods can save you from the new mutant version of Covid-19! It does not offer you a second chance. It is not a question of remaining healthy alone but a matter of life and death. Unlike Covid-19 which primarily targeted senior citizens with co-morbidities(which means other serious medical problems like diabetes, history of heart attacks, etc), the new strain is cruel and does not give you a second chance. So stay home or die. Ceremonies like baptisms, thread ceremonies and circumcision events can be postponed. If you want to get married you can digitally submit your documents to the Registrar of Marriage. The vaccine is here and all of us are likely to get it the next three months. So please have patience. Either stay at home or gather in very small groups. Just because it is a family event does not give you immunity as you do not know who members of the extended family have interacted with. We plead with Shanta Durga, Jesus Christ and Allah to bless their followers and give them the patiences to wait to celebrate religious occasions….

THE new variant of the Covid-19 virus is lethal, according to the co-ordinator for Covid-19 Dr Preeti Varghese of the Goa Medical College. It does not give you second chance. To quote her, “the virus is cruel.” The virus does not give a second chance and the virus is very much around in Goa. Covid-19 is the same, yesterday 2020, potentially more deadly in 2021. The second wave, aptly referred to as
“tsunami” witnessed at global level is offering evidence that Sars Cov-2 virus is now lethal and incurable.
Now with the identification of the mutated virus, it has perhaps become all the more necessary to protect ourselves from it. Unlike Covid-19 2020 the new variation emanating from UK targets the young. Most of the victims are below 40 years old, which was not so in the case of Covid-19 to which seniors citizens were more vulnerable. The majority of those who died of Covid-19 were senior citizens above the age of 60. Relatively, there were less than 10% who died at younger ages.
Among the first victims of the new Covid-19 variant was a two-year-old child who had flown down from the UK. Whose home town was Ajmer. There are over a lakh of Goans staying in the UK on Portuguese passports. Most of them have become citizens of the UK and will not be affected by BREXIT. Fortunately, or unfortunately, a large number of them came down to Goa around Christmas and New Year season to catch up with their family and friends.
I understand that as many as 4,000 cases of those who tested positive since November 15, 2020 when the UK virus first showed up are being tested if they are infected with the new variant. It is claimed that over 200 have tested positive for the new deadly Covid-19 which kills and does not give you a second chance. I believe from very reliable sources that Health Minister Vishwajit Rane is supressing the results received from the Virology Institute of Pune. The results are apparently sent to him directly and not to the Microbiology department of the Goa Medical College & Hospital.
As it is even without the impact of the new Covid-19 most health experts are expecting a huge spike in the number of cases by January 15. This is because despite the direction of the Union Health Ministry and the file moved by Vishwajeet Rane, Chief Minister of Goa Pramod did not impose any restriction on New Year eve events. The neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka imposed lockdown from 9pm to 6am on New Year eve. Nobody was as criminally negligent as Pramod Sawant.
Goa is the only tourist state in the country which rolled out the red carpet. You only have to look at the pictures of crowded beaches and published by the daily newspapers to see how casually and carelessly tourists were celebrating in Goa. Most of them did not even pretend to wear a mask. There was no question of maintaining physical distance considering how crowded the beaches were. The night clubs were full and revellers were swinging to the beat of the DJs and the live bands.
In an act of total irresponsibility the owner of the `OHeraldo’ newspaper, Raul Fernandes, which should have been educating both Goans and tourists on following Covid-19 guidelines, was instead launching his own night club ironically called RAUL which has come on the mangroves off the Santa Cruz highway.

CELEBRATION: Marry now by civil registration and wait for the vaccine jab before the grand celebration. Instead of just 50 people you may call 500 people but after everyone is vaccinated.

The Travel & Tourism Association waited till the New Year was over and the tourists left before suggesting that there should be a curfew or a lockdown in Goa! They have made their money already and are now perhaps worried if their senior parents at home and their children may get infected, as they themselves have exposed themselves to these tourist spots as part of their job. Goans are become so hospitable that they are willing to die to entertain drunken tourists bringing in the moolah.
Never mind that none of the senior managers in the tourism industry may even take a walk on the beaches — because of broken beer bottle glass scattered down the beaches. Action should ideally be taken against the night clubs and the open air venues where New Year eve parties were held. It is alleged that the CM must have been heavily bribed to keep everything open including the casinos, because he refused to take any timely action to contain the spread of the contagion.
But why blame the tourists? Goans themselves have been merrily celebrating religious functions where the guest list exceeded the mandatory 50 people. In a high society wedding held in South Goa with more than 500 people in attendance, 200 tested Covide-19 positive. The Catholic community of course does not know how to hold a wedding without a four-tiered wedding cake, a white wedding gown and a band to entertain the hundreds of guests! In the past I have attended the weddings of the daughters and sons of our politicians, where the guest list ran into thousands. I can understand it if there is no alternative. Anyone who wants to get married in Goa only has to give a month’s notice to the civil registrar in charge of marriages. Unlike in the past the bride and bridegroom do not even have to go personally the first time with the documents of proof of age and residence in Goa. The first trip to the registrar’s office is now substituted with digital submission of the marriage details. The only time they have to meet the registrar is after the expiry of the one month’s notice. The only people who have to be present are the bridegroom, two witnesses and of course the registrar. They would have to produce a negative Covid-19 certificate too.
I was shocked when I learned that a very close friend, a doctor, who along with his wife attends to Covid-19 patients in the GMC, celebrated the first holy communion of his 10-year-old daughter. Putting the life of his daughter and other children and guests invited for the celebration. My friend, the doctor, of course protests that he followed all the Covid-19 safety protocol. Did he have the guts to test the priest who administered holy communion? Holy communion, for those not familiar with Christian rites, is equivalent to the thread ceremony which Hindu families have for children, or akin to the circumcision ceremony which Muslim brothers observe.
I am convinced that the super spreaders of the contagion are priests. The parish priests of the church, the bhatji of a temple, the maulana at his mosque. All of them meet so many people every day. Ever since the places of worship were thrown open there have been people attending mass, visiting temples and mosques. What guarantee is there that among them there is nobody who is Covid-19 positive? I have not heard of any temple, church or mosque, even conducting a thermal scan of those participating in a religious function.
I am horrified to learn that the Sikh community’s gurudwara at Betim continues with its langar (mass feeding) which is now managed by an all women’s committee. Langar refer to the generous free meals that are offered at Sikh gurudwara across the country, irrespective of caste, creed, color or faith.
What is even more scandalising is that people from all communities are proudly posting photographs of their marriage, holy communion or thread ceremonies on Facebook. I am shocked that even my good doctor friend puts both virtual invitation and photographs of his daughter’s communion on Facebook! What impression does this create? If a well-known Covid-19 doctor can go full speed ahead with their family celebrations why should there be curbs for ordinary people!
As a co-ordinator for Covid-19 treatment at the GMC puts it, “What is the hurry? Surely ceremonies like holy communion and thread ceremonies can be postponed?” The Covid-19 vaccines are here. In probability within the next three to four months everyone will be entitled to be vaccinated. Never mind that the vaccines are being given without completing the final round of trials on human beings to clinch their safety! Never mind that we are being turned into guinea pigs for vaccines in a hurry. Vaccines which in the normal course of scientific tradition take ten years to be finalized are now being produced in less than a year. For instance, even after 50 years of AIDS there is no vaccines to protect to protect ourselves against it.
Prevention is the only cure. Please disabuse yourself of the idea that just because it is a family function with only 15 to 20 people present, you are protected from getting infected. In the case of the new mutant corona virus there are no second chances or so we are told. You live only once. Your priest cannot resurrect you. Nor can Shantadurga nor Lord Mangeshi nor Jesus Christ nor Allah save you if you catch the new version of Covid-19.
Goa hospitals do not have enough beds. Plus, there are not enough doctors to treat Covid-19 positive patients. There are not enough nurses, not enough attendants. There are very few people willing to risk their life to save others. Don’t depend on miracles. In this case the gods cannot or will not save you! Just stay at home if you want to just stay alive. At least wait till you get the vaccine which it is said offers some protection against contagion. But even the vaccine might not reach you on time or give you 100% protection. Vaccine manufacturers are claiming only 90% effectiveness.
Help the frontline Covid-19 warriors. But they cannot help you if you are unwilling to cooperate in your own best interests. Follow the guidelines strictly. Namaste is no substitute for hugs and kisses and how do you explain to children why there are hugs and kisses? Because you love them! Because you want to protect them from the big bad wolf Covid-19 and its many evil relatives. How do you maintain distance from a nani or a nana or the sasu mai whose feet you must bend and touch for blessings? Explain to all that for their own safety you must maintain a meter’s distance, it is difficult but it is a matter of life and death. It is no longer the question of being healthy and happy. The new mantra or slogan should be Stay home, Stay alive!

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