Health experts in West Bengal have warned that a new outbreak of Covid-19 infections could occur as residents violate safety norms during Durga Puja celebrations, the Hindustan Times reported on Tuesday.
In a widely shared video from Kolkata, devotees could be seen crowding a Durga Puja pandal. Many were seen not wearing their masks properly, while some others were seen without one.
Doctors in West Bengal told the Hindustan Times that they were shocked to see residents engage in festivities as if they were immune to Covid-19.
“If the coronavirus is appearing to be under control right now then it is because of the character of viruses and natural history of diseases they spread, not because of medicines and vaccines,” virologist Amitava Nandy told the newspaper.
He added: “The virus is now coexisting with us. It is herd immunity that has brought down the intensity of the transmission. This mass violation of health protocols can trigger a fresh outbreak. I am surprised to see nobody is speaking up.”
Nandy said that even vaccinated individuals could be carriers of the coronavirus as they could become spreaders, reported the Hindustan Times. “Of the patients who came to my clinic with fever and symptoms of Covid-19 in recent weeks, around 40% were fully vaccinated. I know of many people who died after vaccination,” he said.
Earlier in October, the Calcutta High Court had said that people will not be allowed inside Durga Puja pandals, Live Law reported. This restriction was also in place in 2020.
But a forum called the Joint Platform of Doctors said it was worried about crowding on the streets. “People neither wore masks nor maintained social distance during shopping for puja,” the forum said, according to the Hindustan Times. “If this continues, we will be thrown back to where we stood in March-April.”
Another health expert put the onus of being cautious on residents. “Health protocols in a pandemic situation cannot be enforced without mass participation,” Dr Kalyan Kar, a top doctor from a hospital in Kolkata, the Hindustan Times.
An unidentified virologist told News18 that most people were not getting tested for Covid-19 as the reported symptoms were mild now. “As a result, if that person is present in puja crowd, there is a strong possibility that the infection will spread to others,” the virologist added.
West Bengal recorded 768 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, taking the total number of infections since the outbreak of the pandemic in January last year to 15,77,711. With 10 more deaths, the state’s toll rose to 18,924.