Bengal ramps up vaccine drive in rural areas ahead of festive season
With the festive season around the corner, the West Bengal government has ramped up its Covid-19 vaccination drive in rural areas. “The focus has shifted over the last one month or so. At present 60%-70% of the daily doses are being given in peri-urban and rural areas, while only around 30%-40% are being given in urban areas,” said an official of the state health department.
Between April 1 and September 18, around 20.3 million doses were given in rural areas while 10.8 million in urban areas. Nearly 85%- 90% of the urban population has received the first dose. People in peri-urban and rural areas are now flocking to the city hospitals to receive the first jab.
“While on one hand, the infrastructure is more in the cities compared to the rural and peri-urban areas, these people usually come to the city for health check-ups in state-run hospitals,” the official said.
To date, around 50.2 million people have received doses in West Bengal. While 30.7 million have received their first dose, 15.2 million have got their second.
“Since September 1, on three days at least, we have been able to cross the one-million mark. On September 18, we gave 130,28,64 doses which is the highest given in one day in the state till date,” said another official.
Even though the five-day Durga Puja starts from October 11, the festival extends for over a week every year. Mahalaya this year would be held on October 6 and the immersion process would continue till 17.
Thousands of people would be flocking to Kolkata and Salt Lake from the peri-urban and rural areas for pandal hopping. The shopping spree ahead of the festive season has started.
According to a study commissioned by the state government in 2018, the value of the creative industries that crop up around the Durga Puja – the biggest festival in West Bengal – is worth ₹32,377 crore.
At least 36,000 community pujas are held across the state. This includes 2,500 in Kolkata alone. Pujas are held in housing societies and residences as well. Around 1,500 pujas are organised by women only.
In 2020, the Calcutta high court banned the entry of visitors into puja pandals. A cap was put on the number of committee members, local residents, and drummers who could enter a pandal as part of the celebrations. Last year, the puja was celebrated in a muted manner which prevented a major spike in Covid-19 cases.
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