Goa’s image as an idyllic seaside paradise lies shattered with the rising death toll at the state’s premier Covid facility, the Goa Medical College Hospital, which is also the state’s apex medical facility. Over the past four days, there have been a staggering 75 deaths, with 13 patients dying in the intervening night of Thursday and Friday alone. State Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has admitted that the deaths were occurring due to disruptions in oxygen supply – a statement Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who has been at loggerheads with his health minister on the response to the pandemic, attempted to play down.
Rane has even gone to the extraordinary length of demanding a CBI probe into the cause of the deaths. However, before the Bombay High Court, which is hearing a batch of pleas on the series of deaths at the GMC Hospital, the government was forced to admit that the deaths were due to disruptions in oxygen supply.
Even one death due to lack of oxygen at a medical facility is, as the High Court observed, a violation of the fundamental right to life of a citizen. Seventy-five deaths over four days is an inexcusable failure of responsibility, for which accountability needs to be fixed. The opposition Goa Forward Party has even filed a police complaint alleging criminal negligence against the CM, the chief secretary and the nodal officer in charge of oxygen supplies. While that may be dismissed as politics, it is clear that the visible rift between Sawant and Rane over the course of action on combating the spread of the virus has hampered the administration’s response. Goa has reported the highest positivity rate in the country at nearly 50 per cent. Sawant’s refusal to impose a lockdown, or insist on RT-PCR tests for incoming tourists, is said to have compounded the crisis in the state.
While the BJP top brass has intervened and Union Home Minister Amit Shah has reportedly hammered out differences between the two, it is clear that the state’s start-stop and lackadaisical response to the second wave has made a bad situation worse. Sawant and Rane need to realise that the virus is the true enemy.