As Covid-19 reaches rural Goa, villagers impose their own lockdowns

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As the number of coronavirus cases rise in Goa, villagers have begun to lock themselves at home and ensure a complete shutdown of activity in their villages in the hope that they will tide over the pandemic.

In began on June 6, when a health worker from Guleli in Sattari, a village located deep in the Western Ghats that line Goa’s eastern fringe with Karnataka, tested positive for the virus, people from the village quickly shut down the few shops that make up the village and quarantined themselves in their homes.

The practice soon spread to neighbouring villages after cases were found there too and culminated in Keri, a village that lies along the border with Karnataka declaring a four day shutdown to “break the chain” of the virus.

“Yesterday the Keri youth and villagers got together and decided that since the coronavirus has reached close to home they would voluntarily shut shop. The youth have come forward and called the each panch and explained the plan. This is for our own good and our own decision,” Laxman Gauns, a panch member from the Keri village, said

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“We have to break the chain of the virus. So we will remain shut for four days. This is not a government directive or anything, but it is our own choice and decision. Those who work outside the village, they should take their own precautions. We cannot take the law into our own hands and they should make their own choice,” he said.

“It’s not as if the virus will disappear within four days but we want to do what we can and also spread awareness,” he added.

Covid-19 cases emerged in rural Goa after health workers -- mainly those associated with the Vasco Urban Health Centre began testing positive. So far, 15 health workers have tested positive and five family members related to the health workers also tested positive. Seven hail from the Morlem village neighbouring Keri and one from Guleli.

A large number of people from the villages of Sattari taluka are employed in the health department.

On Tuesday, the state government tried to dispel rising fear about the pandemic after the recent spurt in Covid-19 cases. Goa now has more than 300 cases. The director of health told reporters Covid19 is “just like any other respiratory disease.”

“There is a lot of fear that has spread and people are scared and they are scaring others too. It is just like any other respiratory disease and if we can take precautions, there will be nothing to worry. Also, as per our numbers, only 5% of patients show symptoms the rest 95% are asymptomatic. We also have a zero mortality rate and a 100% cure rate,” Dr José de Sa, director of Health Services, said.

“There are other communicable diseases in the community, we don’t have to fear. But we have to take all precautions and for high-risk persons those who are above 65, children less than five and those who have comorbid conditions and pregnant women, have to be extra careful. Wear a mask, wash hands frequently and routinely follow all precautions,” he said.

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