On New Year’s eve, Goa’s Covid-19 count breaches 1K mark, expert panel to suggest closure of schools for 2 weeks

Along with strict implementation of the government’s Covid SOPs including allowing fully vaccinated or Covid-19 negative guests in restaurants and pubs, the expert committee set up by the Goa government on Friday will recommend that schools in the state be closed for at least two weeks from Monday to be able to assess the spread of the infection in the state. The state will also start vaccinating about 72,000 children in the age group of 15-18 in an aggressive vaccination drive starting Monday.

Dr Dhanesh Volvoikar, paediatrician and member of the expert committee, said the number of cases in the state was seeing a sharp rise and closing schools for just two weeks or moving them to online mode, may help in assessing the situation better. “Every second-third day, we are seeing a doubling of cases. If the same continues, then we may reach 10,000 cases per day by another two-three weeks. But it is likely that the cases will be mild this time. The projected cases are not serious cases. The mutant strain is not very lethal like the Delta variant. The Omicron wave may not be lethal.”

The expert committee’s suggestions will be submitted to the state government’s task force on Monday, Dr Volvoikar said. He said that while the expert committee had also suggested imposing a curfew since the test positivity rate was now above 5 per cent, its time or duration will have to be decided by the government.

Amid the peak tourism season in Goa, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve saw a rise in active Covid-19 cases from 461 to 1,046 on Friday. The test positivity rate on December 25 was 2.19 per cent, and it climbed to 6.93 per cent on Friday.

On Wednesday, state revenue secretary Sanjay Kumar issued an order restricting the operation of casinos, cinema halls, auditoria, community halls, river cruises, water parks and entertainment parks to 50 per cent of their capacity, as the test positivity rate climbed above 5 per cent. The order stated that “the number of Covid-19 cases being reported in Goa is increasing, and the situation might further aggravate if public gatherings and active interaction are permitted unrestricted.”

The order came two days after the first case of the Omicron variant was detected in Goa. Since Christmas celebrations on December 25, the number of active cases has risen from 461 to 657. On December 25, the number of new Covid-19 cases was 60 and the test positivity rate was 2.19 per cent. On Wednesday, there were 170 new cases reported and the test positivity rate was 5.25 per cent.

Along with high tourist footfalls including both domestic and international tourists, Goa has also seen large gatherings for parties and weddings this month. The poll-bound state has also had crowds gathering for political rallies or meetings throughout the month.