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While CM Mamata urges COVID caution, doctors are not convinced


Kolkata (The Hawk): Just like previous years, the list of Durga Puja pandals to be inaugurated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee is long. To accommodate most of the requests, she started the exercise from Wednesday.

On the third day, Friday, she visited some big-ticket Pujas like Shinghi Park, Ekdalia Evergreen, Telenga Bagan, Hindustan Park, Falguni Sangha, Ballygunge Cultural.

At all the Puja associations she has been to, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has been urging people to maintain COVID-19 protocols during the festive season. As she chanted shlokas invoking the deity, she also made an earnest appeal to the people to follow the COVID guidelines apart from maintaining social distancing and use of masks and sanitizers to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

“Please follow all COVID guidelines, wear masks while moving around pandals,” she urged.

The CM had on Wednesday, on the occasion of Mahalaya, inaugurated Naktala Udayan Sangha in south Kolkata among other pandals.

Emphasising on the usefulness of wearing face masks to keep the spread of COVID-19 in check, West Bengal chief minister asked everyone to be careful while pandal hopping as the pandemic is still around.

“I request people visiting the pandals during the festival to wear masks even if they are fully vaccinated. Some people are testing positive for COVID-19, even after being administered both doses of the vaccine,” she said.

Keep sufficient masks at your disposal for distributing them among visitors, who come without them, she advised the organisers.

Mamata Banerjee also urged people to be on guard as the rainy season triggers an outbreak of dengue.

At least 36,000 community pujas are held across the state and in Kolkata alone 2,500 community pujas are held by various clubs registered with the state government.

While on one hand the CM has been reminding people to be on their guard, one the other, people have been utterly callous in their behaviour towards the pandemic. Large crowds can be seen at shopping plazas and most of them on the roads are without masks.

While the new rule of allowing doubly vaccinated people for pushpanjali and sindoor khela has brought cheer to Puja enthusiasts, it has also meant extra work for the organizers. Organizers of Suruchi Sangha and Ekdalia Evergreen said that they will be deploying extra volunteers this time, who will assist the police in checking the vaxx certificates of the people entering the pandals.

Ashok Ojha, joint secretary, Md. Ali Park Durga Puja association said, “We already have a system in place where only our own members will be allowed to enter the pandal. We more or less know that most of them are vaccinated. But I agree it is a difficult and awkward task for us to ask our members to show their vaccine certificates. We have made an appeal to members that if anyone is not vaccinated, we will get them vaccinated and the councilor has promised us help in this regard.”   

While the COVID situation in the state is under control, there is no reason to be complacent. It has been documented how Kerala saw a spike in positive cases after Onam and how the number of affected people went up in Maharashtra after Ganesh Puja. Bengal can hardly take things lying down.

A sneak peek into the West Bengal figures for the last three days shows that on October 8, new cases were 784 and active COVID-19 cases were 7,625. On October 7, the new cases were 771 and active COVID-19 cases, 7,593 and on October 6, the new cases were 786 and active COVID-19 cases, 7,591.

The graph clearly shows a small rise in active cases.

Dr Sajal Biswas of Doctors’ Organisation of West Bengal says that the active cases are sure to rise. “The rule of allowing doubly jabbed people for sindoor khela and pushpanjali is totally unscientific. Even after two doses, people are getting affected. Mask and social distancing are the only two ways to avoid the spread of the virus. Vaccines can only control the severity of the disease. Durga Pujas should have been totally stopped during the pandemic. The third wave is sure to hit us, if we are not careful.”