Panaji: Vasco da Gama, a city on the Mormugao peninsula in coastal Goa, has emerged as the epicentre for coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
On June 2, a man from Mangor Hill, a densely populated Vasco suburb, was the first local case of the viral infection in Goa since Covid-19 was first reported in the country in March.
The Mangor Hill resident, a fish truck driver, was rushed to Goa Medical College and Hospital amid difficulty in breathing.
Later, he tested Covid-19 positive.
Soon, his family members and neighbours found to have contracted SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease, and the state healthcare authorities marked Mangor Hill as Goa’s first containment zone.
A little over a month later, Vasco and its neighbouring areas have reported 562 Covid-19 positive cases, which work out to around 25% of the total viral load of the state, and 11 of the 18 deaths recorded in Goa.
On the contrary, Panaji, which sees maximum movement because it is Goa’s administrative capital, has recorded six Covid-19 positive cases to date.
“Mangor Hill is the epicentre of Covid-19 positive cases in Goa, as people from that area is more mobile. Besides, Mangor Hill is linked to several slums in and around Vasco and that’s how many Covid-19 clusters were formed in the area,” said Dr. Utkarsh Betodka, an epidemiologist.
He pointed out that in other parts of the state, only isolated Covid-19 positive cases have been reported so far.
However, there has been not been any community transmission in Vasco, he added.
Vasco is a mercantile town and many of the Covid-19 patients do odd jobs such as private taxi drivers, who hang around at the Goa International Airport in Dabolim or at the cruise ship terminal in Mormugao. There are people from other walks of life such as welders at shipyards, mechanics, etc; for whom maintaining social distancing is a daily struggle because they live cheek-by-jowl.
Vasco and its neighbourhood also host the Indian Navy airbase, the Coast Guard headquarters, Goa Shipyard Ltd, a defence public sector undertaking (PSU) company and several other government installations.
“It’s a densely populated area, where social distancing is not always possible to be maintained,” said a doctor, requesting anonymity.
At present, Vasco has two containment and micro-containment zones, respectively.
Mangor Hill and Zuari Nagar are the largest containment zones in the state since June.
Dr Jose D’Sa, director, health services, Goa, said that more senior citizens are now susceptible to contract the viral infection than youngsters.
“Epidemiologically, viral outbreak cases usually start with a younger generation and when the virus gets into a home, people, who are on the sick bed and are suffering from comorbid conditions, t get infected. This is how the viral load and the virulence go up, as it affects many elderly people,” said Dr D’Sa while explaining Vasco’s Covid-19-related death toll, which is 11 to date.
However, he sought to reassure that Goa’s case fatality rate (CFR) is less than 1% and most of the Covid-19 patients have died due to comorbid conditions.
“Goa’s CFR is 0.61%. Besides, most Covid-19 victims were suffering from severe comorbid conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, renal ailments, and malignancy (cancer),” he added.