Thiruvananthapuram

COVID advisory unlikely for Pongala

Attukal Pongala, the single largest congregation of women in the State slated to be held here on Monday, at a time when the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak is looming large, has caused the Health Department to tie itself in knots as to what advisory they should issue to the public.

Senior Health Department officials say that they have been asked to “leave Pongala alone” and given clear instructions not to commit anything as to whether the mass gathering of such a magnitude poses a public health threat against the background of the COVID-19 threat.

For informed decision

“Our instructions are to clearly reiterate the IEC [information, education, communication] messages through television and FM radio that the public should avoid mass gatherings and practise social distancing, follow all respiratory hygiene guidelines in the current scenario and to hope that the ‘aware’ public would take note of it and take an informed decision on participating in pongala,” a senior official said.

In short, the Health Department has decided not to issue any special advisory in connection with the pongala. However, there are many who feel that the department is being downright irresponsible in not advising the public correctly and in expecting the general public to understand the technicalities involving COVID-19 and to make a “prudent” decision.

“It is a tricky situation. The Prime Minister and President have decided to avoid Holi celebrations as Delhi has reported new COVID-19 cases and all precautions have to be taken. Kerala, however, claims that it has successfully contained the virus causing COVID-19. No local transmission of the virus has been documented so far. It would thus be difficult to convince the public that a mass gathering like the Attukal Pongala could pose a public health threat,” an official said.

World over, sporting events, conferences and church services are being suspended because the situation involving COVID-19 is still fluid and there could be undetected virus transmission in the community.

“It is the government’s call to take a policy decision and to educate the public accordingly. When we say that we do not have silent local transmission of COVID-19, it should be remembered that we have no data to substantiate it and that the disease has no specific symptoms in the initial stages. The only advice we are prepared to give the public right now is to stay home if at all you are sick or have the beginnings of a respiratory illness like mild fever and cough,” a senior official said.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 6:08:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/covid-advisory-unlikely-for-pongala/article30995098.ece

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