A councillor of the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation allegedly shooed away shoppers from a market in Salt Lake because they were not wearing masks on Thursday morning.
When some shoppers tried to reason with councillor Debasish Jana that only those with cough and cold should wear masks, he allegedly told them that they should be thrashed.
The health department advisories say a person should wear a mask only when he or she is suffering from cough and cold or if he or she is in direct contact with a Covid-19 patient.
Jana, the Trinamul councillor of Ward 34, is also the mayoral council member in charge of solid waste management in the Bidhannagar civic body.
He turned up at the market in Salt Lake’s GD Block to ensure that shoppers were keeping their faces covered and maintaining social distancing.
Jana was asked whether his instructions to shoppers went against the health department’s guidelines. “How do we know that the person standing nearby is not carrying the virus? I had asked people to wear masks or keep their nose and mouth covered with a piece of cloth,” he told Metro.
“If everyone covers their mouth and nose, everyone is safe.”
Jana said he had also ensured that all railings at the market were disinfected so that the elderly, who often lean against railings for support, were safe.
Allegations have surfaced that he sent back several people home who were not wearing masks and also uttered harsh words against them.
“People like you should be thrashed,” he was heard on a purported video of the incident telling a scooterist without a mask in front of the market.
To others, he was heard saying: “No mask, go back home.”
The state health department’s guidelines mention that the mask worn by someone with symptoms of coronavirus infection has to be mandatorily changed every six to eight hours to prevent spread of the infection.
A senior health department official said if the Covid-19 guidelines were to be followed strictly, a mask should only be worn to prevent spread of droplets from an infected person.
“Since Covid-19 is not caused by any air-borne virus, a healthy person does not need to wear a mask. Because even after wearing a mask, a healthy person could be exposed to the virus by means of finger touch. A mask is essential to prevent spread of droplets from an infected person,” said an official.
Another health department official said people were advised not to panic or rush to buy masks.
“There is a limited stock of masks. Imagine what would happen to the ill, if all masks are bought by healthy people,” he said.