Navrati to New Year’s: Festive period may add to rising Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra
As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, the state and city administration fear a further spike, with the upcoming festive season that stretches from October-December.
The nine-day navratri festival, which is celebrated with much galore in the city, begins from October 17, followed by Diwali, another major festival that begins from November 14, followed by Christmas and New Year celebrations.
Apart from increase in testing and more relaxations with the state’s Mission Begin Again campaign, social interactions during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival is also being considered as one of the reasons for a spike in cases in the city and state. The average daily Covid-19 cases shot up after Ganesh Chaturthi from nearly a 1,000 cases in August to 1,800+ cases in the first week of September. Since September 5, cases are being reported in the range of 1,800-2,300 almost daily. On Wednesday, Mumbai recorded its single-highest spike of 2,378 cases in a day.
In Maharashtra, between August 20 and 31, around 10,000-15,000 cases were being recorded daily, which has increased to 20,000+ cases almost daily since September 5. On Wednesday, the state crossed 1.1 million cases.
Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the state-appointed Covid-19 task force, said, “I agree that the risk is higher with the upcoming festival season. However, it is time citizens start taking the onus and adjust to the new normal. People are still not getting tested immediately after developing symptoms owing to the stigma attached to the infection.”
He further said, “There is also lack of cooperation from citizens when it comes to wearing masks. The government is only going to bring in more relaxations hereafter. It is for the citizens to bring in behavioural changes while dealing with a pandemic.”
Navratri event organisers HT spoke to said that while they are waiting for the state government to issue guidelines, they are sure of not celebrating the festival this year. Some, however, think the state may allow people to celebrate, however, with reasonable restrictions.
“Navratri is largely about garba and dandiya, which is impossible with social distancing norms. So it is clear that there will be no celebrations this year,” said Neil Somaiya, BJP corporator from Mulund, who has been organising a navrarti event at Mulund (East) for the past few years.
Pravin Chheda, who has been organising dandiya nights since 25 years in Ghatkopar, said, “Even Ganesh Chaturthi was not celebrated the way it usually is. How can navratri be celebrated without social gathering? The state might only allow societies to maybe do puja within the buildings.”
Ajitkumar Ambi, assistant municipal commissioner of N ward, which covers Ghatkopar, and has a huge Gujarati population, said at present, cases are on the rise in many areas of the ward namely Pant Nagar and Rajawadi.
“Ideally, celebrations should not be allowed as the number of cases is increasing in many pockets. But if there are demands from local representatives and citizens, then we will escalate it to higher authorities,” Ambi said. He also said a decision on whether to allow relaxations or curb the celebrations will be taken in two-three days.
Meanwhile, some organisers are also considering ‘virtual navratri’ to keep up the festival spirit. Jignesh Khilani, secretary of Ghatkopar Gujarati Samaj, which hosted Falguni Pathak in 2017, said, “We are thinking on the lines of arranging virtual navratri. We are waiting for the state’s guidelines on it.”
Manoj Kotak, member of Parliament from the Mumbai North-East, which has many Gujarati pockets, also said that they might consider looking at virtual dandiya nights.