To be sure, the Covid graph in West Bengal has been rising sharply over the last fortnight. The state reported 2,058 cases on April 6, over five times the number reported just a fortnight earlier on March 22. It was the highest daily number so far this year. The past three days have seen an average of 1,900 cases a day. As the election campaign began in the state earlier in March, the state reported only 171 cases on March 2. The epicentre of the fresh spike is yet again the state capital of Kolkata, with 606 new cases on April 5 and 582 on April 6.
However, fines for not wearing masks seem non-existent in Kolkata, or in the second most-affected North-24 Parganas district and beyond. Except a few hoardings imploring people to follow Covid-19-appropriate behaviour, no sense of urgency prevails on the ground with the state administrative machinery busy in elections.
Bengal is conducting about 26,000-29,000 tests daily; the number is the same as when polling began on March 27 and when daily cases were around 800.
A senior state government health official, when contacted by News18 in Kolkata, argued that the focus was now on vaccination, which he said was progressing at a good pace. “West Bengal has delivered about 73 lakh vaccination doses so far to people, including about 8 lakh people getting the second dose. We are among the top five states in vaccination numbers,” the official said, not wishing to be identified.
However, the Centre has been stressing that vaccination must also be followed by Covid-appropriate behaviour, such as wearing face masks and social distancing, especially in the period between the first and the second doses and for a fortnight after the second dose. News18, however, found very few were aware of such information, including elderly people who have got the first dose.
With elections in full swing and 203 out of the 294 seats still to poll, there is no talk yet of a night curfew or a weekend lockdown. Officials here cite the relatively lower numbers compared to states such as Maharashtra or Delhi. There is no talk either of imposing any flight ban from the states reporting a high number of cases, like West Bengal had done last year.“May 2-er pare coronar sathe larai habe (We will fight corona after the counting on May 2),” a senior politician in West Bengal summed up the situation. Till then, Bengal is on a wing and a prayer.