Bengal logs spike in Covid-19 count as people flock to shops ahead of annual festival

The positivity rate - the proportion of people testing positive to those tested – has shot up from around 6.6% on September 5 to around 8.3% on October 5 in the state.
By Joydeep Thakur | Edited by Sohini Sarkar | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
UPDATED ON OCT 08, 2020 02:48 AM IST
People shopping ahead of the upcoming Durga Puja festival at New Market amid the coronavirus pandemic in Kolkata on Wednesday.(PTI PHOTO.)

With West Bengal entering the Durga Puja-mode and festive-season shopping going on in full swing, the state is witnessing a steady spike in Covid-19 numbers.

The positivity rate - the proportion of people testing positive to those tested – has shot up from around 6.6% on September 5 to around 8.3% on October 5 in the state.

“Puja shopping has started. People are out on the streets and markets are getting crowded. The members of puja committees are also gathering where pandals are coming up. The positivity rate is increasing because of this. We have to be very cautious and strictly ensure that people wear masks,” said a top official of the state government.

The number of new Covid-19 cases reported daily has also witnessed a sharp spike of 73% in Kolkata in the last one month. While the city had registered 428 new cases on August 30, on October 6, the number of new cases reported from Kolkata stood at 742. Daily cases are also rising in the city’s fringes. The district of North 24 Parganas which has the second highest Covid-19 numbers after Kolkata in West Bengal had registered less than 600 cases on August 30. On September 6, it recorded 712 cases.

With the festive season beginning from mid-September with Viswakarma Puja and Mahalaya, the Durga Puja, the biggest annual festival of Bengal that continues for over a week, is scheduled for the last week of October.

“I request people to wear masks when they are going to markets for puja shopping. Try to wear gloves or at least try to sanitise your hands during shopping. We need to take precautions. Care should also be taken during the puja when pandal-hopping starts. Puja committees should arrange for hand sanitisers,” Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal said while addressing an administrative meeting on Tuesday in West Midnapore district.

The state government had earlier issued detailed guidelines to puja organisers and police on how the Durga Puja would be held this year. On Tuesday, the Union home ministry also issued standard operating procedures on how to contain the spread of the viral infection during the festive season.

This year more than 37,000 pujas will be organized across the state, including more than 2500 in Kolkata and around 1700 pujas which are organized by women. The list doesn’t include those organized inside housing societies and houses.

“There would be no post-immersion carnival and cultural festival during the puja days. A series of dos and don’ts have been prepared on how to the puja would be organised. These have already been distributed among all the puja committees,” said Saswata Basu, general secretary of the Forum for Durgotsab.

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