THE heavy unseasonal rains have been disrupting both the novenas and the final day of the St Francis Xavier feast at Old Goa. The pandal erected every year to protect devotees from the sun could not cope with the gusty winds and continuous rain. In fact, certain portions of the pandal gave way due to weather conditions. The rain also damaged the fans and the lighting arrangements. Panjim recorded the highest ever single day shower on Thursday, December 2 with 102 mm of rain in 24 hours.
ESMA THREAT TO GARD
THE GOA Association of Resident Doctors (GARD) has been threatened with the declaration of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) under which they can be suspended or even arrested, despite the fact that the resident doctors have been working without a break for the last two years treating COVID patients.
It is not widely known that the COVID hospital in Margao was managed for a year at the peak by senior surgeon Dr Rajesh Patil. GARD is protesting against the delay in conducting the National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET) exams, including the counselling for admissions to the post-graduate seats. Already the resident doctors have completed the eligibility terms, including four-and-a-half years of MBBS adding up to seven years.
The delay in conducting the exams will result in a severe shortage of surgeons under whose guidance resident doctors operate. Clearly Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has no sympathy or consideration for the resident doctors who work 72 hours at a stretch, conducting surgeries even on COVID patients. GARD representatives have met the Health Secretary Raja Shekhar and have requested him to withdraw ESMA.
SALIGAO GFP MLA JOINS BJP
Former Goa Forward Party (GFP) MLA from Saligao Jayesh Salgaonkar has resigned from the party and also as an MLA on Thursday, December 2. He is expected to join the BJP. Significantly, the BJP karyakarta from Saligao have revolted against the decision to admit him. The BJP has dissolved the Saligao Mandal in the face of a threat by them to field an independent candidate. The Congress is expected to field Tulio De Souza, son-in-law of late Dr Wilfred De Souza and Adv Yatish Naik is expected to be the Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate.
VERY HIGH OMICRON RISK
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the Omicron corona virus variant is likely to spread internationally to pose a very high global risk of infection. The surges could have serious consequences in some parts of the world. WHO has urged its 194 member states to accelerate vaccination of high priority groups in anticipation of increased case numbers.
The variant was first reported on November 24 from South Africa from where the variant has spread very rapidly. A few cases have surfaced in India too. An absence of the ‘S’ gene is symptomatic of Omicron.
PARLIAMENT BARS MEDIA
BOTH houses of Parliament — the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha — have barred members of electronic and print media from covering Parliamentary sessions. The partial ban which has been in operation because of COVID was expected to be lifted following the sharp drop in the number of COVID cases. A large group of 400 members of the media gathered at the Press Club and marched towards Parliament but they were stopped by the police. In an open letter to all political parties the Press Council of India has pointed out that while curbs imposed on markets, cinemas, restaurants and other public spaces have been lifted, the curbs on media coverage in Parliament have not been lifted.
CONSEQUENT to the Omicron alarm internationally the Indian government has grounded plans to resume international flights from December 15. This will affect charter flights which are booked and much looked forward to by the tourism industry. Passengers from at-risk nations flying into Delhi may opt for a rapid RT-PCR test with results within 90 minutes, costing Rs3,900. Normal RT-PCR tests costs only Rs500 but it takes six hours for results to come. Air travellers to the US will face tougher COVID-19 testing rules. Goa airport is testing 2% of flyers from Sharjah and so far none have reported positive.
MAMTA DISOWNS UPA
THE Trinamool Congress chief told the media after her meeting with Nationalist Congress chairperson Sharad Pawar that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has become redundant. This is probably provoked by the fact that the UPA at present is headed by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. Political strategist Prashant Kishore has also lashed out at the Congress party for not being able to get its act together to take on the BJP. Mamta is expected to visit Goa on December 13.