Thousands of pilgrims on Wednesday started arriving in West Bengal for the annual Ganga Sagar Mela even as the COVID-19 infections continued to mount and remained a cause of concern in the State.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited Babu Ghat in Kolkata where devotees have thronged in large number from adjoining states and urged the people who will be visiting Sagar to strictly follow COVID-19 guidelines and the Calcutta High Court order.
The Calcutta High Court in a recent order directed that only those who are having COVID negative in RT-PCR report of within 72 hours, will be permitted to enter the Sagar Island for Ganga Sagar Mela. The Court had also set up a committee to ensure that COVID-19 protocols are followed on the ground.
“This is the time avoid large gathering. The infection has spread in almost every family. I welcome you all, but you have to take care of your health,” Ms. Banerjee said.
The Chief Minister urged organisers “not to send too many people to Gangasagar Mela” and said that they can take the help of police and local administration. Ms. Banerjee said that even if a single person with the viral infection travels in a vehicle most of people in the vehicle will get infected.
The State government had set up several camps for pilgrims arriving for the festival where people are getting tested for the infection and are also being administered second dose of vaccine. Such camps have been set up at Babu Ghat from where vehicles are leaving for Sagar Island and at Kakdwip from where people are taking boats and vessels for the Sagar Island.
Officials in charge of the Ganga Sagar Mela said that this year the crowd was relatively less due to the curbs imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people who have arrived on the island over the past few days is about 15,000. About 20 lakh people visit Sagar in the days leading to Makar Sankranti and take a dip at the confluence of where river Ganga meets the sea.
West Bengal records 30.86% positivity rate
Meanwhile, the State continued to report high number of cases with 22,155 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours. Deaths due to COVID-19 infections increased to 23 but the case positivity rate declined marginally at 30.86%. The COVID-19 positivity rate in the State on Tuesday was 32.35%. The COVID-19 bed occupancy rate in the State was 6.11%. While Kolkata continued to record highest infections with 7,060 fresh infections, South 24 Parganas where the Ganga Sagar festival is being organised registered 1,461 fresh infections