At a time when Kolkata is witnessing a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases just ahead of the Durga Puja, the Kolkata Police seems to have relaxed its norms and lowered its vigil against people not wearing masks.
The number of people arrested every day for not wearing masks in Kolkata has dropped to almost half during the festive season compared to the number of people arrested earlier in August and September.
On an average 160 people were arrested everyday between October 5 and October 11, for not wearing masks in public places while more than 300 people were arrested every day for the same reason between September 5 and September 11, barring two lockdown dates when the number of arrests was even higher.
The number of such arrests on September 7 and September 11, when lockdown was enforced, was 525 and 488. In August, during the same period, the number of arrests was higher, 410 every day barring lockdown days which were enforced on August 5 and August 8. On these two dates, the number of people arrested was 469 and 494.
“We are looking into it,” said Subhankar Sinha Sarkar, joint commissioner of Kolkata Police (HQ).
This comes at a time when Covid-19 cases in the city have almost doubled over the past one month and doctors have warned the Mamata Banerjee administration that relaxation of restrictions during the festive season could result in a three to four fold spike in Covid-19 cases. They have cited the example of Onam in Kerala. Kolkata on September 8 had recorded 380 new Covid-19 cases. On October 10, the city registered 783 new cases.
The West Bengal government had made wearing of facemasks mandatory on April 12 to check the disease from spreading. Over the past few months, the Kolkata Police have been arresting people every day for not wearing masks.
“Unlike other states where people are beaten up for violating Cobid-19 norms, the West Bengal government has decided to treat people in a more humane way particularly during the festive season. People are being requested to wear masks and maintain social distance. Hence the arrest figures may have gone down a bit during the festive season,” said a top official of the state government.
On Monday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee urged people to wear masks and maintain distance in public places. She also urged the puja organisers to distribute masks and hand sanitizers to pandal hoppers.