News18» News»India»'Corona what? It is Gone': In Poll Season, Bengal Throws Virus Caution to the Wind
2-MIN READ

'Corona what? It is Gone': In Poll Season, Bengal Throws Virus Caution to the Wind

Commuters wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus wait for a bus in Kolkata, on October 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

Commuters wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus wait for a bus in Kolkata, on October 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

Covid graph in Bengal has been rising over the last fortnight. The state reported 2,058 cases on April 6, over five times the number reported just a fortnight earlier

Corona ki? Corona nei. Corona chole gache (Corona what? There is no corona. Corona is gone). Question anyone in West Bengal not wearing a mask — and chances are you will have to ask nearly everyone including politicians — these are the answers expected from the other side. In the state high on political fever, the viral infection seems nobody’s priority.People jostling to reach the media enclosure at a big rally in East Medinipur to overcrowding in road shows in Hooghly, the concept of do gaj ki doori (maintaining physical distancing) seems long forgotten. So is the practice of wearing masks. Here, leaders need to be seen, and people want themselves to be seen with the leaders.

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.

RELATED NEWS

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.

Read all the Latest News and Breaking News here