Mamata Banerjee on Thursday assured Bengal that the Covid-19 situation was being monitored and there was no need at the moment to impose restrictions on the winter festive spell between Christmas and Makar Sankranti.
The chief minister’s assurance has come amid increasing fears in the country triggered by a surge in Covid cases in China.
“As far as Covid-19 cases are concerned, we are monitoring the situation. We have set up a committee to monitor the situation. We will take all necessary steps to tackle the situation as and when required,” Mamata told journalists waiting outside the Raj Bhavan where she met governor C.V. Ananda Bose in the evening.
Chief secretary H.K. Dwivedi convened an hourlong meeting of the committee from 6pm.
In response to questions on the winter festivals, Mamata asked: “Will people not enjoy festivals?”
“There is almost no Covid19 here now, the people have been moving freely. If it returns, we will advise the use of masks, taking other precautions. But we cannot say this (about restrictions) right now to so many people, lakhs of people (revellers),” added the chief minister.
“It has not come to Bengal yet, and it cannot be said with certainty that it will come at all. We are monitoring closely, observing the situation, if there is a need for it, we will take timely action.”
Asked whether there would be special measures for the Ganga Sagar Mela for Makar Sankranti, which is expected to be attended by around 30 lakh people, she said it had taken place even while the pandemic was far more threatening.
“Previously also, we had organised the Ganga Sagar Mela by following all Covid-19 protocols. This time as well, we will adhere to all norms. If the situation goes out of control, we will surely impose necessary restrictions. There are no Covid-19 cases at this time in Bengal,” said Mamata.
“We do know that there are cases in Delhi and Kerala, it does not take long for that to get here.... If it does get here, we will take measures again and tackle it. We had assumed that the pandemic was over, but China, again.”
The Covid situation in Bengal is under control now as positive cases have come down to a single digit in the past few days and it was zero on December 18. On Thursday, the state reported only nine cases while 4,293 samples were tested.
On Wednesday, she had directed officials to form a special committee to keep tabs on the Covid situation after Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan had asked states to take preventive measures amid reports of a spurt in novel coronavirus cases in a few countries, including China.
At the meeting chaired by Dwivedi at Nabanna on Thursday, senior health department officials and the advisory committee decided on stepping up surveillance, but without the use of force.
“We will exponentially increase Covid surveillance, and request the use of masks... which is something we never stopped saying, actually. But no use of force as Bengal is not at an alarming stage yet,” said director of health services Siddhartha Neogi.
It was resolved at the meeting that random testing would be conducted at 10 key points of the Ganga Sagar Mela and district administrations would be advised to track and test people with symptoms.
Mamata hails Bose
The chief minister has said Ananda Bose is “kind” and a “gentleman” and his relations with the government are extremely well.
After calling on the governor, Mamata told journalists: “I came here to extend the festive greetings of Christmas and the New Year to the governor.... He is a true gentleman... a remarkably kind person. He behaved very nicely... he is so nice.”
“His relations with the state government are extremely well, already. I hope we will not have any issues in the future. The governor has been quite supportive of us. He has been assisting us at every stage, fully cooperating with us. We are very grateful for that, we are truly obliged. I hope that each and every issue will be resolved, during his time here,” she added.