Goa tourism stakeholders fume at Maharashtra’s Covid-19 SOPs
The Maharashtra government’s decision to include Goa among the places from which travellers entering the state will have to produce a Covid-19 negative certificate is a deliberate ploy to ruin Goa’s tourism, stakeholders have said.
“Goa tourism is going to be doomed with the Maharashtra government asking all travelling from Goa to Mumbai to have a negative certificate. It takes 48 hours for the report to come so tourists who come to Goa and are travelling back to Mumbai will have to obtain one. Tourists will try to keep away from Goa. I think it’s a ploy to destroy Goa tourism,” John Lobo a shack owner from North Goa said.
His view was echoed by the president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) Nilesh Shah who said that there was no ‘scientific reasoning’ to include Goa among the list of regions from which arrivals will be tested.
“It appears that it is more of a political ploy rather than anything done with scientific reasoning. Goa is one of the safest places with regard to Covid-19 cases. No doubt safety is important and it would be OK if they had decided to test people coming in from Delhi or other hotspot places. Maybe they wish to promote their own tourist hotspots at the cost of Goa,” Shah said.
“Besides these can easily be bypassed by those travelling from Goa to Maharashtra who can simply drive back via Belgaum in Karnataka or take a flight via Bangalore. These SOPs do not appear to be practical,” Shah said.
Tourists from large cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi have been visiting Goa with the airport now handling 48 flights and around 13,000 passengers per day. The number of flights is a little over half the number of flights being handled before the pandemic began.
However, if the mandatory testing protocol continues, stakeholders, who have been hardest hit by the lockdown and travel restrictions believe the added inconvenience will further deter those willing to step out.
Goa’s tourism minister Manohar Ajgaonkar said that the SOPs adopted by Maharashtra were “against MHA instructions”.
Earlier Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant as well as health minister Vishwajit Rane had railed against the Maharashtra government after Goa was included in the list.
“The Maharashtra SOPs say that even if the person is symptomatic, the person will be subjected to an antigen test. How can that work? If a person is symptomatic, the person will have to undergo an RT-PCR test. Only then can a person be successfully segregated or else it will be of no use,” Sawant told reporters.
For his part, Rane has said that state government’s free Covid-19 testing services will not be extended to those people wishing to take the certificate for the purpose to travel to Maharashtra.
“Goa Medical College and Directorate of Health Services has been directed not to carry out Covid test pertaining for travel purpose. The Health department is here to keep the people of Goa safe. People wishing to avail a Covid test for travel purposes should visit either the North Goa or South Goa District Hospitals. The RTPCR test will be conducted on a chargeable basis,” Rane said.
“All tests pertaining to the safety of the citizens of Goa, which are recommended by the doctors of PHCs, CHCs and Flu OPDs will continue as before,” he added.
Goa is recording between 100-200 cases daily while the number of deaths ranges between 0-5 over the past few weeks. However an increase in tourist numbers accompanied by social distancing norms being thrown to the winds in casinos, nightclubs and party hotspots has led to fears that the numbers could spike up once again over Christmas and the New Year.
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