Many dreams came crashing down with the arrival of summer 2020. For in the summer of 2020, the uncalled for Coronavirus pandemic seized the annual vacation time. When the Centre declared a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of COVID 19 among the people of the country, many citizens got trapped in cities outside of their hometowns. Contrary to what most anticipated, the total number of the coronavirus cases could not be controlled and instead saw a constant hike.
Since the lockdown was imposed in March, the nation hasn’t seen a measurable dip in the number of COVID 19 cases. Let alone travelling to exotic locations like Goa, it has been a risky business for people to step out of their home quarantine for a task as simple as buying groceries. Travelling abroad or within the country was impractical with airways, railways and roadways being closed to the general public. Although India started gradually 'unlocking' the economy in June by allowing operation of local businesses in systematic phases, there may still be a while before the threat of the infection lowers and normalcy returns. Thus, travelling in the country requires the strict criteria developed by each state to be diligently followed.
Goa is an unarguably the favourite spot on every Indian's travel bucket list. Several domestic tourists, as well as foreign tourists, flock the beaches of Goa during summertime in search of the spicy Vindaloo, endless days sunbathing on the shore and the ecstatic rave parties, all of which are the very essence of Goa. The global pandemic brought all these plans to a halt. Even as state borders in India are giving way to domestic travellers, the eager foreign tourist has yet to be allowed. The state government of Goa has been strict and asked tourists to be as cautious as they possibly can to avoid the miniature state from seeing a hike in positive cases.
In spite of being an international tourist hotspot, Goa was one of the first few states to have a nominal amount of confirmed cases during the first few days of the national lockdown and eventually saw a major decline in positive cases. At one point for 23 days, the state was officially Covid-free. Of course, this streak was broken as many stranded migrants returned to their hometown, bringing the infection along with them. This ensued the second wave of the spread of the infection in Goa. In June, came a spike in active cases. The state government is trying their best to track the spread of the infection by contact tracing, but there have been minor glitches in the tracing that has given rise to new cases.
The state government of Goa has framed new quarantine rules for the people entering the state by airway, as declared by the Airports Authority of India recently.
- A 14-day home quarantine or institutional quarantine has been made mandatory for all passengers. Institutional quarantine is compulsory for all symptomatic passengers till their covid test result is available. The passengers can be quarantined in their pre-booked accommodation or hotel.
- A person can skip home quarantine if they furnish authorities with a COVID-19 negative certificate, issued by an ICMR-recognized lab. The test must not be older than 48 hours prior to the arrival in Goa. The person may also choose to take a swab test upon landing at a cost of INR 2000, and go into a paid institutional or home quarantine till their result is out.
- The seafarers from Goa too will have to follow coronavirus-related quarantine protocol and have to have a negative test result before they are allowed entry into the state.
New norms to be followed if entering the state by road or train have also been issued.
- A self-declaration form is required instead of the interstate permit to enter Goa by road, whether it is in an owned or rented vehicle or a bus.
- Installation of the Aarogya Setu app is compulsory and it needs to show your status as ‘SAFE’ (already tested as negative for the covid 19 test) before the start of your journey.
- A COVID-19 testing is mandatory on arrival by train in Goa. Passengers will be charged INR 2,000 each for the test, except for those covered under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana. Once they are tested, tourists will be kept in an isolation ward till the results are available.
- If the passenger's end destination by train is Goa, they must have a valid residential address in the state and carry documentary proof of the same.
A tourist who wants to enter and stay in the state will have to follow certain safety protocols to not endanger the lives of the locals.
- Booking a registered hotel for their stay (accommodation) before arrival is compulsory, and it will be verified at the entry points in Goa. The validity of the booking of the registered hotel unit will depend on whether it is affiliated to the Department of Tourism and has the license to operate.
- If the tourist shows COVID-19 related symptoms upon arrival during screening at any of the entry points, they will have to undergo a COVID-19 test at the authorised centres or hospitals at their own expense.
- If the tourist can present a negative COVID-19 test result, they can directly proceed to their booked accommodations. If no such test certificate is shown, they will immediately be asked to get tested for COVID-19 at the authorised testing centres or hospitals. Post testing, they will be required to go into self-isolation till the results are out. The isolation ward will be offered by the accommodation, where the booking was made by the tourist. Once the test results are declared, if the tourist result is found to be negative, they can be permitted to travel out of the quarantine facility. However, if they test positive, the accommodation unit will continue to act as per the guidelines issued by the state health department. All bills related to the quarantine shall be paid by the tourists.
- In case the tourist wishes to move from their initial booking for accommodation in the state, it must be permitted with the will of the accommodation units run by the tourism department. The tourist must provide proof of re-booking, if any, to the Rapid Response Leader of the accommodation unit before they can be moved from the original stay. If such a case arises, the tourist will have to fill a self declaration form at the accommodation unit for contact tracing.
- Passengers are mandated to regularly update the status of their health as per the result of the testing, using the Aarogya Setu app or a self-declaration form.
The states are being as vigilant as possible to contain the spread of the virus and all citizens must help them by following the guidelines. Who would have thought taking a trip to Goa would entail so many formalities!