West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday launched 69 Durga Pujas across the state virtually.
The Trinamool Congress touted this is a good this since Banerjee got to inaugurate pandals in rural areas which she normally wouldn’t inaugurate.
A Rajya Sabha member from Trinamool Congress, who was not named, was quoted by The Telegraph as saying, “Although there were thousands of requests from various districts, every year, the chief minister used to devote her time to the city for the festival. This time, however, since the inauguration process is largely virtual, the districts are getting to have some big-ticket Pujas inaugurated by her.”
The virtual ceremony came on a day when West Bengal recorded 3,677 new Covid-19 cases and 64 deaths. This is the highest single-day spike in the number of deaths in the state.
With Durga Puja shopping happening in full spree, Bengal has seen a spike in Covid-19 numbers. The state has had a total of 3,05,697 cases and 5,808.
Last week, Hindustan Times reported that the positivity rate had gone up in the state from 6.6% on September 5 to around 8.3% on October 5. According to the West Bengal government bulletin it was 8.01% on October 14.
Officials of the government had attributed this increase to more people being out and about. The Hindustan Times report had quoted an unnamed government official as saying, “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.”
Doctors have also warned Banerjee about the dire consequences of crowds during Durga Pujas. An organisation called the Joint Platform of Doctor had written to Banerjee earlier this month about it.
The Indian Express had quoted the letter as saying, “We saw that the number of infections in West Bengal went up after Mahalaya and Vishwakarma Puja. It is an alarming signal. We have also seen how the situation deteriorated after priority was given to emotions to organise Onam festival, neglecting health protocols, in Kerala. Not only festivals, political gatherings also increase the chances of spreading more Covid infections.”