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Monday, August 02, 2021

Goa may allow entry to fully vaccinated people without negative test report

Earlier this week, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had said that the government is planning to allow entry of fully vaccinated persons into Goa. He, however, said that at this stage this pertained to those coming into Goa for business and not for tourism.

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
Updated: July 2, 2021 9:06:54 am
On Thursday, there were 2,278 active Covid-19 cases in the state and the test positivity rate was 5.28 percent. (Express File)

With tourism taking a hit amid the second wave of the pandemic and restaurants and bars still not open in Goa, the state government may allow entry to those who have been vaccinated with two doses, without the mandatory Covid-19 negative report.

Following directions from the High Court of Bombay at Goa, the Goa government had mandated a Covid-19 negative report for those entering the state May 10 onwards. Earlier this week, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had said that the government is planning to allow entry of fully vaccinated persons into Goa. He, however, said that at this stage this pertained to those coming into Goa for business and not for tourism.

Sawant had earlier said that the state aims at vaccinating its population with at least the first dose by July 30 after which the government will consider reopening tourism. Till Thursday, 9,30,455 persons have been vaccinated in the state.

A state-wide curfew with restrictions on gatherings and shops, allowed to remain open till 3 pm, will be in place till July 5. So far, 6,94,047 persons had received their first dose of the vaccine in the state and 1,18,204 had received both doses. On Thursday, there were 2,278 active Covid-19 cases in the state and the test positivity rate was 5.28 percent.

On June 28, the Advocate General of Goa D J Pangam had also urged the court to consider allowing entry to those who have taken both shots of the vaccine without a mandatory test. The High Court had, however, said that the issue must be placed before the 17-member expert committee appointed by the state government and not the court.

Dr Shekhar Salkar, a member of the expert committee said that the committee is expected to meet next week and the issue may be discussed then. He, however, said that using the representative data of the staff of about 5,000 in Goa Medical College (GMC) and Hospital, it was seen that 4,800 had received at least the first dose of vaccination of which about 1,200 had received the second dose. In the second wave, he said, 114 staff members had tested Covid-19 positive which was about 2.5 percent.

He explained that the chances of letting in an infected person through a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) was 40 percent, that with the RT-PCR test was 20 percent but that with a vaccinated person with one dose was 10 percent or less. “With two doses of the vaccine, it is even better,” said Salkar.

Dr Oscar Rebello, also a member of the expert committee said “Some countries have already started to allow people who are fully vaccinated. There is no way we are going to be completely Covid-free and Goa is an economy dependent on tourism. So we have to find a middle path.”

He said that with the number of active Covid-19 cases steadily on the decline, allowing fully vaccinated people to enter without a mandatory test would be fair. At present Goa allows entry to persons coming from other states with any negative test report including RAT and the RT-PCR test.

“Fully vaccinated persons coming into the state, if they are asymtomatic, I think it should be all right. But once they are in they have follow distancing and wear masks and you cannot fill the casinos up again and let the parties continue. Those things will have to be observed. If that regulation does not happen and then it’s a free for all in Goa,” said Rebello.

He added, “RT-PCR is also not a full proof method by which you can say we’re definitely not going to get any cases. The vaccine would be far more convenient for people to visit the state and revive the tourism sector on which the entire tourism economy is dependent. You’ve got to find a balance between economy and health. Aggressive vaccination of the local local population and fully vaccinated people coming in without an RT-PCR test is a fair option with the present case load.”

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