Daily Covid-19 cases shoot up nearly 4 times in poll-bound Bengal in 40 days
The daily count of Covid-19 cases has shot up nearly four times in the past 40 days in West Bengal even as the crucial assembly polls are scheduled to take off in the eastern state from Saturday.
The Indian Meteorological department has also warned of a possible heat wave in some districts of south Bengal and has advised people to stay indoors between 12 noon and 4 pm.
Even though the entire country is witnessing a second wave with Covid-19 cases rising at an alarming rate, experts say that the mass gatherings during election campaign and people putting down their guard against the virus could be the possible reasons behind the rise in West Bengal.
While the everyday Covid-19 cases had shot up to more than 4000 in late-October 2020 during the festive season, it had dropped to 133 on February 15 this year. On March 26, however, the state registered 646 new cases, a rise of around 4.8 times during the last 40 days.
“If you see the rallies and road shows of political leaders in any district, you will hardly see anyone wearing a mask. Forget social distancing. These are ideal conditions that favour the spread of Covd-19,” said a senior official of the state health department.
The eight-phase assembly elections will begin from March 27 with 30 assembly constituencies in five districts going to polls in the first phase on the first day itself. Polling is scheduled between 7 am and 6:30 pm.
Top leaders of both the BJP and the TMC, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and chief minister Mamata Banerjee among others have held rallies in these districts in the past few day and every time the political parties boast of people gathering in lakhs.
“Any kind of festival, be it social, cultural or religious is bound to trigger a spike in Covid-19 cases as there would be a gathering and people tend to lower their guard. Political rallies and elections are no exception. The more restraint we show during such festivals the less would be the spike as we had seen during Durga Puja and other festivals last year. But the moment we lower our guards, cases will shoot up proportionately,” said Asis Manna, vice principal of the state-run Infectious Diseases Hospital in Kolkata.
But hardly anyone in public rallies, political meetings and road shows could be seen wearing masks or maintaining social distance. Even political leaders and star campaigners, some of whom are senior citizens could also be spotted without masks.
Last year when Covd-19 cases were raging in the state, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had blamed political rallies and protests for rising Covid-19 cases among the police force, as police need to tackle the workers and political supporters during such events to maintain law and order.
Data shared by the state government shows that even though Kolkata and North 24 Parganas, the two most densely populated districts, have the highest number of cases, some of the districts which are going to polls have also seen a rise in the past few days.
While in Purulia cases have shot up three times from 4 to 12, in Paschim Midnapore cases have jumped from 1 to 12 between February 15 and March 25.
On Friday, the maximum temperature in Kolkata touched 37 degrees Celsius, which was two degrees above normal. Some areas, such as Uluberia in Howrah, registered heat-waves, with the temperature soaring to 39.6 degrees Celsius, which was more than six degrees above normal.
“Day temperature is likely to continue above normal by 2 degrees – 4 degrees over the districts of Gangetic West Bengal and heat wave condition is likely to prevail over the districts of East Midnapore, North and South 24 Parganas district during the next 2 – 3 days,” said a statement released by the IMD on Friday.