Bengal government’s advisory board on the Covid pandemic will write to chief minister Mamata Banerjee requesting an aggressive drive for more vaccination and to ensure people wear masks.
The Global Advisory Board, which the Mamata government had set up last year in view of the pandemic, in its last meeting decided to write the letter to the chief minister after its members raised concerns.
“The letter is being sent to the CM. We want to highlight the urgency for bringing people out of their complacency, which is preventing them from taking the vaccines and wearing face masks,” said Abhijit Chowdhury, convenor of the board, of which Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee is chairman.
The state government on Monday held a meeting with the Kolkata airport authorities discussing how to implement the ministry of health guidelines for international travellers from ‘at risk’ countries for omicron, the new coronavirus variant.
“The letter also mentions the risk of omicron, which has made it even more necessary for people to come out of the complacency about Covid,” said Chowdhury.
The Telegraph has reported on Monday that there are around 19 lakh people in Bengal whose due date for the second dose of Covid vaccine has passed but they have not taken the jab.
“The state administration has to find ways to get these people vaccinated. Not wearing masks or reluctance to take vaccines is a problem faced by many other countries. But in a country like India, where the population is so high, we cannot afford such complacency,” said another member of the advisory board.
A state health department official said they have started vaccine and mask awareness outreach programmes but beyond a point these measures are not effective.
The state government and airport authorities decided on Monday to step up health surveillance of international passengers arriving in the city.
“The health ministry’s guidelines will be implemented from December 1. We will be deploying more healthcare personnel at the airport for monitoring the international arrival passengers,” said an official of the state health department.
C. Pattabhi, Kolkata airport’s director, said the city now has direct flights from three countries listed as ‘at risk’ for omicron — UK, Bangladesh and Singapore.
“Passengers from these countries will have to undergo RT-PCR tests on arrival and only after the results are negative, would they be allowed to leave the airport,” he said.
As per the health ministry guidelines, if tested negative, they will follow home quarantine for seven days and re-test on the eighth day of arrival in India. They will have to further self-monitor their health for the next seven days.
“If any passenger tests positive, the sample will be sent for genomic testing,” said a health department official.
The state government has designated the ID Hospital, Beleghata, to admit such passengers. However, officials said, if someone wants to get admitted at a private facility they would be allowed to do so but the costs would be borne by the passenger.