Kolkata: Expressing concern over the unrelenting surge in COVID-19 cases in Bengal, doctors here have written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The doctors have urged Mamata Banerjee to take stricter measures to restrict public gatherings during Durga puja. They have said that if public gatherings are not prevented it might ‘lead to a tsunami’ of infections.
BR Satpati is an advisor at the health department and member of West Bengal’s COVID-19 expert committee. He, however, asserted that the government was taking requisite measures to ensure people’s safety.
Members of Joint Platform of Doctors have sent the letter to Banerjee. They have referred to the steep rise in coronavirus cases in Kerala after the recent Onam festival. They have also cited a similar situation in Spain following ‘International Women’s Day’ celebrations.
They also attached with the letter a three-day rolling average of the daily number of infections in the city. The figures showed a significant rise in caseload.
“We saw that the number of infections in West Bengal went up after Mahalaya and Vishwakarma Puja. It’s an alarming signal. We have also seen how the situation deteriorated after priority was given to emotions to organise Onam festival in Kerala. During the Onam festival health protocols were not followed.
“The infection rate in Kerala shot up by 750 per cent, following which section 144 had to be imposed there. So gatherings must be prevented, the letter, signed by Dr Hiralal Konar and D Punyabrata Gun said. Both are joint convenors of the platform, said.
The doctors also reminded the chief minister that Ganesh Chaturthi was a low-key affair in Maharasthra this time. They also said ‘Garba’ during Navratri has been cancelled in Gujarat, in the wake of the pandemic.
“In our state, too, Eid and Muharram were observed indoors. If we do not learn from these instances, and take precautionary measures to maintain health protocols during this Durga Puja, it can be suicidal. The situation may go out of hand leading to a tsunami of cases,” the forum said.
The platform further requested Banerjee to ensure that no public gathering takes place during Durga Puja.
“We would like to request you (CM) to take necessary steps to stop gathering of people at puja pandals. And people stepping out of their homes must mandatorily wear masks. We believe, at this moment, these are the two major protocols people must follow,” the letter said.
Dr Konar, when contacted, said calling off Durga Puja celebrations would have been the ideal thing to do, this year.
“We could have not organised the Durga Puja this year amid this pandemic. There are so many factors involved. So many people will be exposed. Think about the police personnel, the civic police, the volunteers who will be on the road. This will make them more vulnerable to the disease,” Dr Konar said.
“We will urge the administration to allow virtual pandal-hopping. That would stop people from going out. People must be encouraged to opt for virtual pandal hopping,”
Bengal, till Wednesday, witnessed 5,376 COVID-19-related deaths. The number of infected people stands at 2,80,504.
Satpathi, on his part, said the state was taking adequate steps to ensure safety of all. However, people too, have to be alert and follow the instructions.
“See, people have to follow the protocols while going out. We have to be alert. The state has taken all forms of precautionary measures. But if people do not follow them, there will always be a chance of a further spike in cases,” Satpathi stated.