Public health experts have called for stringent adherence to the Covid-19 safety protocols, including wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and sanitising hands regularly, following a fresh rise in the number of Covid cases.
The experts and health department officials are worried that many people are not wearing masks in public places, including malls and markets, and the number of public gatherings has increased.
The protocols are being increasingly violated at gatherings such as marriage receptions and political rallies.
Public health experts and doctors who have been closely monitoring the pandemic since its start a year ago said the situation was not as encouraging as it seemed a few weeks before.
There has been an ebb for almost three months since end-November and this was typical of the pandemic, as witnessed across parts of Europe and North America, the experts said.
But now there is a greater need for awareness of the situation, particularly in the wake of the huge rise in the number of Covid cases in Maharashtra, several doctors said.
On March 14, the number of new Covid-19 cases in Bengal was 283. A month back, it was 185. The daily average of reported positive cases in Calcutta was 80, compared with around 55 a month back.
On Sunday, Calcutta reported 93 cases and North 24-Parganas, 90 cases.
“The Covid-19 pandemic raged for seven months and then the cases started reducing in November and December. Normal life was restored. When we were panic stricken with so many people around us getting infected and hospitals were full of Covid patients, it was easier to implement the safety norms. But once normality was restored, the threat did not sink in,” said cardiac surgeon and public health expert Kunal Sarkar.
“Once public transport resumed and public gatherings allowed, it became impossible to maintain social distancing. Can people maintain physical distancing at election rallies and road shows? The only way out is to wear masks and avoid social gatherings as much as possible. We cannot presume to be safe unless we reach the threshold of Covid vaccination. Till such time the vaccination covers 25 per cent of the population, we cannot presume to be safe. We have barely reached one per cent. So, we have to adhere to the safety norms for next four to six months.”
Last week, senior officials of the health department met at Swasthya Bhavan to review the situation. A string of advisories was drawn up for doctors and other frontline health workers at medical colleges where the footfall of Covid patients has again started going up.
“Doctors attending patients in outdoor departments have been asked to be more particular about maintaining the Covid-19 protocols. At most major medical colleges, the staff at the clinics have been instructed to ensure physical distancing,” said Gopal Krishna Dhali, the head of the gastroenterology department at SSKM Hospital, who is heading the Covid-19 monitoring team in Bengal.
“Tests in some of the centres will be scaled up so that there is no laxity in detecting positive cases.”
According to the health department data, a little over 17,000 samples were tested on Saturday. A month back, over 22,000 samples were tested in a day, a drop of 5,000 samples.
Besides Calcutta, the chief medical officers of health in North 24-Parganas, Howrah and South 24-Parganas have been asked to increase the number of tests.