PANIC SETS IN AS DEATH TOLL RISES!

PANIC: The sudden rapid increase in the number of covid-19 positive cases and the growing death toll is resulting in panic at testing and vaccination centers with everyone wanting to play it safe!

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there was total panic at the testing centres of the Health department and the GMC. For a Saturday following the week when Uttar Pradesh started reaping the bitter harvest of the Kumbh Mela where millions gathered to take a sacred bath in the river Ganga at Haridwar. For a Saturday following the week when the Dean Shivanand Bandekar of the Goa Medical College expressed concern that the mutant covid strain is spreading rapidly in Goa and targeting young people. For a Saturday following the week when Goa Legislative Assembly Speaker Rajesh Patnekar dismissed both the MGP and the Congress disqualification petitions against 12 MLAs without giving any reasons. For a Saturday following the week when an incompetent Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the states not to impose a lockdown.
AND a few stray thoughts on the panic at testing centres all over Goa. In the light of the steep increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases and growing mortality figures everyone is now in a rush to get themselves tested or vaccinated. The panic has been fuelled by the growing incidence of death and with young people ignoring symptoms and postponing getting tested or getting admitted to a hospital.
More than 80% of the deaths in the last one week which has crossed a 100 people are due to late arrival and admission at the hospitals. Many in fact are already dead at time of arrival at the hospital or passed away within hours of their admission. Till recently most young people have been taking it covid-19 symptoms casually, thinking it’s just a viral fever or cold and would go away with a couple of paracetamols. Most households do not even have an oxymeter to check a feeling sick family member’s oxygen level – this is the best indicator of the seriousness of covid infection.
Most people do not realise that they are already too late as there are no isolation beds available in public or private hospitals. Unlike in the case of other diseases covid patients have to be totally isolated so that they will not pass on the infection. In every other serious medical condition both private and public hospitals insist that there should be an attendant with the patient. In the case of covid it is the opposite and no attendant is permitted even if it is a family member who may run the risk of catching the dreaded infection.
Reportedly, the double mutant covid strain which has hit Goa spreads faster and worsens more quickly than the milder initial covid strain of the first wave. So you do not have the luxury of waiting to see or check if it is really covid symptoms you’re suffering from or just the season’s cold and cough. Doctors are now advising that even if you have the mildest symptoms of high fever and a cold, with oxygen saturation level of less than 90%, you should get yourself tested. Which is what caused the crises point of Tuesday, April 20, when literally thousands who had put off testing rushed to urban and rural health centres in panic.
The panic was reflected on Facebook where several account holders complained of appointments of their parents for the second vaccination dose had been cancelled or postponed. The South Goa District Hospital literally stopped testing around noon because of the unmanageable crowds. Vaccination also came into a halt at several centres.
The biggest complaint against the government is that the results of the test take 2-3 days to arrive. This is in sharp contrast to private hospitals like Manipal hospital where I got my test result in less than four hours. Fortunately, both the government and the private hospitals have decided to add 500 more beds to accommodate and treat covid patients. The beds of course are useless unless there is sufficient medical oxygen in supply for treatment. It is not the Modi government which came to the rescue of Goa but Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja who responded to Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane’s appeals and sent 20,000 litres of oxygen gas on an SOS basis.
Unlike the BJP government the Kerala government has set up a new oxygen plant with a large capacity, instead of wasting precious public money on building statues and other luxuries of the ego. Indeed, Kerala’s KK Shailaja has been complimented widely for her handling of the covid crises in Kerala even by world leaders.

BITTER FRUIT

AND a few stray thoughts on how Uttar Pradesh has started reaping the bitter fruit of permitting the Kumbh Mela with such enthusiastic arrogance despite advise not to do so from the medical community. None of the sadhu and pilgrim devotees who turned up at Haridwar for the Ganga snan had to produce a covid negative certificate!
The result is the several lakh who entered the Ganga river waters for their auspicious holy bath on specified days – ended up with covid. So far over 5,000 cases have been officially reported and the actual numbers may be much higher. Amongst those infected are the heads of the various akhada who participated in the Kumbh Mela pious ceremonies. It was finally the head of one of the largest akhada who decided that the Kumbh Mela should be stopped and he withdrew. It was only after this that the PM requested the other heads of the religious groups participating in the Kumbh Mela not to continue with the original 24 hours of programs scheduled. The irony is that the 70-years-old head of the Bairagai akada died because he could not get an ICU bed in hospital.
The situation in UP is so bad that the Allahabad Bench of the Uttar Pradesh High Court had to direct Chief Minister Swami Adityayogi to impose a complete lockdown in five cities, including Varanasi where the Kumbh Mela is held, Lucknow and Kanpur which are Ups two industrial cities and the CM’s own constituency Gorakhpur.
Unfortunately, the Modi-friendly Supreme Court stayed the order of the Allahabad HC on the grounds that such executive decisions are beyond the authority of the courts. UP decided to impose a curfew over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday in all districts in UP right up to May 15.

VACCINATION EXTENSION

AND a few stray thoughts on the extension of the vaccination program to all adults over the age of 18, which will be commence of May 1. But don’t rush to the public or private health centre on May 1 because they may not have stocks of vaccines for over 100 crore people who fall in this age group. To be able to vaccinate all citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 years the country will require 102 crore vaccines. The monthly capacity of covid manufacture is only 10 crore a month. You are more likely to be able to get yourself vaccinated in private hospitals which are to be given 50% of vaccine stocks available, with the two vaccines being manufactured by Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech which is a public sector company.
The demand is primarily for Covishield developed by Oxford University in collaboration with British company AstraZeneca. It is manufactured and marketed in India by the Serum Institute based in Pune. Unfortunately, the company is facing problems producing an adequate number of vaccines partly due to a fire in the factory but primarily because the United States has banned the supply of raw materials need for producing the vaccine.
The private hospitals are likely to only stock Covishield and a few other vaccines like Sputnik from Russia, and Moderna and Sydus by Cadila, and three foreign vaccines, JNJ, NOBAVX and Pfizer who are all waiting in line for government approval. So far only the Russian Sputnik has got government approval and has tied with the Apollo Group of Hospitals. However, if you go to a private hospital, don’t expect a free ride. Though Covishield is now Rs250 per dose it is likely that the other companies offering vaccines may charge between Rs700 and Rs1,000 per dose.

BEWARE MUTANT STRAIN

AND a few stray thoughts on the revelation by GMC Dean Dr SM Bandekar that a double mutant strain is responsible for the increasing number of Covid-19 positive in Goa. Dr Bandekar also admitted that the mutant strain is targeting younger people. We understand that many young persons in the age group 20-30 are reporting to the GMC and other government health centres with advanced cases of pneumonia, though they have no other health problems.
To quote Dr Bandekar, “While earlier it was believed that covid-19 affects primarily the senior citizen, this is no more the case. We see a lot of young patients (not children) with bad pneumonia. The reason for the massive second wave both in developing countries is because of the mutation of the coronavirus.” When the virus is combatted with vaccinations it changes form to escape the effect of the vaccines.
The primary objective of vaccination is to create more antibodies within your immune system to fight the coronavirus. The reason why you are expected to wait for four weeks for the second dose is to give time to the first dose to create the antibodies needed. The second dose is like the booster dose.
As it is been proved in the case of former prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, you can get a mild attack of covid even if you have taken the both the doses. The latest to report covid positive is Rahul Gandhi who unfortunately will have to wait till May 1 to be vaccinated as he is below 45 years. So far four strains which include the UK, US, double mutant Maharashtra strain and the original strain have been detected in Goa. Fortunately, Covishield is affective up to 95% against the new variants also.
Over the three days that is April 18, 19 and 20, 54 people died from Covid-19 with most of them in the 30 to 40 age group. More than 2,000 people have tested positive in the last two days (April 19 and 20). Amongst the 26 casualties reported in the last 24 hours is a 34-year-old from Sattari without any history of any serious health problems. His only symptom was acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which is typical of advanced coronavirus. The Sattari patient died within three days of admission. Barring two patients, the average hospital stay of 24 people who died in the last 24 hours, was only three days.
All this to dramatize that they came to the hospital only at an advanced stage of infection when they had already developed ARDS. Now that the deaths and positive cases are going up very sharply everyone is panicking and rushing to their urban and rural centres for help, except that these centres are equipped to test only ten people a day or so say some who visited them.

SIMPLY DISMISS!

AND a few stray thoughts on Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Goa Rajesh Patnekar dismissing the disqualification petition filed by Sudhin Dhavalikar and Girish Chodankar. Sudhin Dhavalikar had filed case against the two MGP MLAs Babu Azgaonkar and Vinod Parlekar who had merged with the BJP after the death of Manohar Parrikar. Similarly, Girish Chodankar, president of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee, had filed a case against the 12 Congress MLAs led by Babush Monserrate who also had merged with the BJP.
In the 2017 general elections to the surprise of the BJP, the Congress won 17 of the 40 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Congress and at least Digambar Kamat had an understanding with Vijai Sardesai that if together they got the majority, Goa Forward would support Digambar Kamat for the chief minister’s post. Unfortunately for the Congress the chances of the Congress government were sabotaged by the then GPCC president, Luzinho Falerio, who wanted the chief minister’s job for himself.
Having served as general secretary of the Congress at the centre, Luzinho is close to Sonia Gandhi and got the High Command Observer to support him. While the Congress was haggling about who should become the chief minister Nitin Gadkari flew down late in the evening and hijacked both the Goa Forward MLAs and the MGP MLAs. So the numbers of the BJP went up from 13 to 19 as Goa Forward had won three seats and the MGP had won an equal number. Gadkari also managed to get the support of the Independents to secure a simple majority in the Legislative Assembly. Which is how the Congress government was hijacked by Manohar Parrikar who decided to give up his Raksha Mantri of the country status to return to being chief minister of Goa.
Reportedly, by that time he was already aware that he had pancreatic cancer and would not be able to handle the portfolio of defence minister. Both the leaders of the MGP Sudhin Dhavalikar and the GF chief Vijai Sardesai had made it clear that their support was not to the BJP but to Manohar Parrikar! Consequently, when Manohar Parrikar died both the MGP and the GF withdrew support to the BJP.
It was then that Babush Monserrate played his master stroke and got 12 of the 15 Congress MLAs to merge with the BJP to give it a big majority. Two Congress MLAs, namely Vishwajit Rane and Mauvin Gudinho, had earlier quit the Congress and joined the BJP — reducing the strength of the Congress to 15. The disqualification act specifies that if more then 2/3rd of the legislative party decides to split they would not be liable for disqualification. However, a condition is that they should take the permission of the organisational wing of the party. Neither the MGP MLAs or the Congress MLAs had taken the permission of the party.
So Speaker Rajesh Patnekar delayed the hearing of the disqualification petition by more than a year. It was only when the SC directed him to complete the hearing before end-April he took up the hearing of the disqualification petitions. Not surprisingly Speaker Patnekar offered no reasons for his decision. The courts cannot intervene till the speaker has given the decision. But now both the MG and the Congress can challenge the decision of the speaker in the HC and then the SC. Since the courts have decided to go back to video hearings of only urgent cases due to the fresh increase in covid cases, it is unlikely that they will take up the cases against the speaker’s order before the expiry of the assembly in March 2022. By which time it would not matter as fresh assembly elections are scheduled next year.

MONKEY’S BAAT

AND a last stray thoughts on Narendra Modis “Monkey Baat.” Modi who greeted people on the occasions of Ramazan and Ram Navami has directed the states not to impose lockdowns. Modi has realised that after the disastrous lockdowns of March 2020 any lockdowns in 2021 can be disasters, particularly for the migrant poor workers. It may be recalled how millions of migrant workers from the metro cities of India lost their jobs and had to return to their home state, many of them having no alternative but to start walking the highways.
Modi, now the bearded sadhu, instead of suggesting strong action to prevent the rapid spread of the second phase of covid-19, has advised the people not to lose courage but to observe discipline. Though he himself has not been observing any discipline but has been gallivanting around the country addressing election rallies and fighting with Mamta-didi.

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