The city police have resumed the campaign to spread awareness on Covid and started distributing masks in crowded places, highlighting the need to keep faces covered at a time the state is witnessing a fresh surge in coronavirus infections.
Police said they were not prosecuting people for not wearing masks. They are only making announcements over loud hailers to create awareness on how to stop the spread of Covid. On Monday, West Bengal reported 1,449 new Covid cases. Kolkata accounted for 253 cases, the second highest in the state after North 24-Parganas district.
On Sunday, West Bengal reported 2,659 new Covid cases, with Kolkata accounting for 487 cases. According to data shared by the state health department, the maximum number of Covid cases are being reported from North 24-Parganas. Despite the rise in Covid cases, most people have been reluctant to wear masks.
There is no mask mandate either. Covid restrictions imposed under the Disaster Management Act 2005, read with the West Bengal Epidemic Disease Covid-19 Regulations, 2020, stands withdrawn in the state since April 1, following a government order that cited an overall decline in caseload and positivity rate.
The authorities were asked to ensure “strict compliance” with health and hygiene protocol and advisories on Covid-appropriate behaviour, but the police can no longer prosecute violators.
“Earlier, we used to prosecute people for not wearing masks, note down their names and phone numbers to send them to the court. But now there is no such government order to penalise or prosecute violators,” said a police officer in the central division. A senior officer said the police were trying to spread the message that as there is no lockdown and no restriction on the movement of vehicles or persons, it is advisable to take precaution by wearing masks and sanitising hands at regular intervals.
Senior officers at Lalbazar said on Monday all police stations had been asked to launch awareness drives and distribute masks among those who were not carrying one. The drive started on Sunday and will continue in phases over the next few weeks. “Covid is still there and… it will be there. The virus will replicate and survive. We can only stop its spread and transmission by wearing masks and avoiding closed crowded places unless absolutely necessary,” said physician Kajal Krishna Banik.