Featured image: Police personnel stand guard near the barricades set up at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata, October 21, 2020. Photo: PTI
Kolkata: Even though celebrations on day one of the Durga Puja in has been muted across West Bengal, the state reported its biggest daily tally of new COVID–19 infections in last 24 hours.
India has seen a sharp drop in infections since a September peak, but experts have warned it could see a resurgence during Durga Puja this week, and Diwali, the festival of light, in mid-November.
West Bengal‘s health ministry reported 4,069 new COVID–19 cases late on Wednesday. India currently has a total of 7.71 million cases, the second-highest in the world.
The state is also reeling from the aftereffects of Cyclone Amphan, which caused widespread damage to south Bengal in May, and killed 70 people.
Riding on the Calcutta high court’s significant directions to declare pandals ‘no-entry’ zones, several aspects of Durga Puja celebrations have been cut off from the festivities.
For instance, Metro services along the city’s north-south corridor will be available for 12 hours from 10 am on all four Durga puja days, unlike every year when trains run late into the night for revellers.
West Bengal home secretary H.K. Dwivedi was on Wednesday given the additional responsibility of looking into the COVID-19 situation in and around the metropolis during the Durga Puja, an official said.
The decision was taken as per the instructions of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he said.
On October 21, hearing a plea by puja organisers, Calcutta high court relaxed a few of the restrictions.
From 25, the new number of people who were allowed at once inside a pandal was made 45. This includes not just organisers but also local residents and dhakis who are traditional drummers intrinsic to the festival.
The next four days of the festival will be crucial, health officials believe.
“Many people were behaving irrationally and crowding markets,” Abhijit Chowdhury, a doctor who advises Mamta Banerjee’s government told Reuters. “Some of them were not even taking basic safety measures.”
(With inputs by PTI and Reuters)