Goa begins reopening cautiously

India was placed under a lockdown for more than two months, starting in late March, in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. However, this has had a huge impact on economic activity in the country, as virtually every business has come to a standstill and revenue has fallen across the board. Thus, the country has now begun to open up, even as case numbers hit new records on a daily basis and the curve shows no sign of flattening. Goa, one of the most popular tourist and holiday destinations in India, has also begun to gradually reduce restrictions, but this must be done with a lot of caution, as the virus is nowhere close to going away and a lot of people could be put in danger by increased social interactions.

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The central government’s plan to open the country, called Unlock-1, comes into effect from 8th June, and Goa is implementing its policies as per this plan. Under Unlock-1, malls, restaurants and places of worship are being permitted to open again, with appropriate measures taken for social distancing, as well as regular sanitisation and hygiene checks. Goa was already a ‘green zone’ territory, as all the cases detected in the state were among people who had entered the state from outside, and thus there had been no evidence of community transmission. The last positive case in the state was detected all the way back on 3rd April. Therefore, it was already enjoying a lot more freedom than other parts of the country during the last phase of the lockdown, with markets allowed to reopen, public transport operating normally, and shops and offices also being permitted to open. However, some restrictions will still remain. For example, bars and casinos will still remain closed, with wholesale liquor stores being ordered to close by 6:30 pm in order to avoid crowding on streets. In the case of casinos, most operators have gone to online casino for real money, with gambling websites being used to offer casino games to customers from the comfort and safety of their homes. Curfew norms have also been relaxed, with people allowed to remain outdoors till 9 pm, other than for the movement of goods and essential services. The government is also gradually allowing hotels to reopen, while up until now they were only being used as quarantine facilities.

Goa has thankfully been spared from the worst of the pandemic, which is being seen by other places in the country like Mumbai and the capital, New Delhi. Nevertheless, there is still a need to maintain caution, and the Goa government is doing all it can to allow businesses and shops to reopen, but with appropriate measures in place to ensure that this ‘unlocking’ of the economy does not lead to a surge in cases and the imposition of an even more restrictive lockdown than earlier. The hope is that the state can return to a semblance of normalcy in the next three months, in time for the peak tourist season, even though it is not expected that numbers will be anywhere close to those in previous years because of the pandemic’s impact globally.