Cannot stop or impose restrictions on Ganga Sagar Mela, says Mamata

Plan to have COVID-19 testing facilities at all entry points of Sagar Island on anvil

December 30, 2021 03:21 pm | Updated 08:02 pm IST - Kolkata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee waves at her supporters as she departs for Kolkata after her three-day visit to Gangasagar, in South 24 Parganas district, on December 30, 2021.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee waves at her supporters as she departs for Kolkata after her three-day visit to Gangasagar, in South 24 Parganas district, on December 30, 2021.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said her government cannot stop or impose restrictions on the Ganga Sagar Mela. Lakhs of pilgrims assemble on the Sagar Island in the South 24 Parganas district on the occasion of Makar Sankranti to take a dip where river Ganga meets the sea.

“This is not a government festival. It is a public event. People come from different parts of the country. How will I stop people who will be coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar?” Ms. Banerjee said. She was speaking to journalists after visiting the Sagar Island over the past three days. She held an administrative meeting and took stock of the preparations of the gathering scheduled in the second week of January.

“Why are you interested in only Ganga Sagar Mela, ask Kumbh Mela,” she told journalists when asked about the State government’s plans for the event. The remarks come at a time when the Union government has said West Bengal and others were emerging as States of concern for the outbreak of COVID-19.

South 24 Parganas Magistrate P . Ulaganathan said the administration has plans to have COVID-19 testing facilities at all the entry points of Sagar Island during the festival. He said about 20 lakh people will participate in the mela.

The Chief Minister said COVID-19 infections are on the rise and assured that the State government is seriously reviewing the situation. She, however, said the pandemic-related restrictions cannot be imposed across the State because of the adverse effects on the economy and livelihood of the people.

Flights from U.K. to be suspended

Ms. Banerjee said the spike in the cases related to the Omicron variant is because of foreign returnees and urged the Centre to impose some restrictions. “Most Omicron cases are being detected among people coming on flights from the U.K. The Centre must decide on imposing restrictions on flights from countries where the cases are high.”

Later in the day, Home Secretary B.P. Gopalika wrote a letter to Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Rajiv Bansal informing the State government’s decision to suspend until further orders all direct flights from the U.K. to Kolkata with effect from January 3. “Further with effect from January 3, all passengers coming from other non-at-risk countries by international flights in West Bengal will have to mandatorily undergo a test on arrival at their cost,” the letter said.

Positivity rate doubles in 24 hours

The number of COVID-19 infections has doubled within 24 hours. The Health Department said 2,128 infections and 12 deaths were recorded on Thursday. The number of new infections on Wednesday was 1,089 and 12 people died of it. The positivity rate was 2.84% on Wednesday which jumped to 5.47% on Thursday.

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