Maintaining Covid-19 Protocols this Diwali

Diwali, the festival of lights, is the biggest festival of Hinduism. Apart from the rituals, and worshipping Ma Laxmi or Ma Kali, Diwali is the time when people burn firecrackers, light their homes, and draw rangolis. Diwali also sees a large migration of the working class of big cities to their birth village or city. As the third wave of Covid-19 looms large after Dussehra, such massive migration may spread Covid-19 even in remote corners of the country according to some experts.

The return of workers, students, and other professionals is impossible to stop, given people seem to have forgotten all about the horrific first and second waves of Covid-19. However, what can be stopped is the celebration in a large gathering. People are hoping to make the most of it this year, as was evident in Durga Puja in West Bengal. The Covid-19 cases in Kolkata and its neighbourhood shot up past 500 from below 200 before the Puja. And studies have revealed a new trend that most of the cases of virus contraction were in individuals receiving double doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Not only the Puja pandals, shopping centres and restaurants are major spreaders, apart from late-night parties that became active after the State Government lifted the night curfew during the festival. Night clubs and parties have accounted for most of the second wave cases and also is the biggest threat to start off the third wave.

So, should we not celebrate Diwali this year? Experts warn only on gathering and not on the celebration. Every year, Diwali is celebrated at every home with mostly family members. So, the rituals themselves can be done in isolation at home. Marketing is a major concern, and it is best to opt for local markets and shops in the neighbourhood, or online shopping, rather than gather at a shopping mall. Markets have off-late became extremely crowded in this festive season, where hardly anyone is following Covid-19 protocols. The one who is sick or is showing Covid-19 symptoms should take a rest in isolation as this will not only improve the health but also help in curbing any contracted virus. Pandal hopping, especially in parts of West Bengal, should be avoided with no entry allowed inside Puja pandals. Wearing a mask properly when going outside and washing hands frequently are some known Covid-19 protocols people have forgotten nowadays.

Staying at home and following the festival rituals is probably the best option for this Diwali than a late night party that may turn into a super-spreader. Despite taking double vaccine shots, anyone is at risk of contracting the virus, as is evident in recent studies in Covid-19 cases across West Bengal. So, this Diwali, let’s follow the festival’s rituals in their true sense, and maintain the most essential protocol of Covid-19, staying at home and thus avoiding a possible third wave in the future.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Partial Lockdown vs Complete Lockdown Conditions

As the second wave of Covid-19 wrecks havoc in many states, there is again the need for a lockdown phase 2. This time first partial lockdown was imposed, which was expected to slow down the spread of the virus. But the reality was just the opposite. Hence complete lockdown was imposed in most states. The importance of lockdown during Covid-19 times was felt as the second wave has started to decrease from a peak value. So why was complete lockdown not imposed as soon as the number of cases rose? Let us now compare between partial and complete lockdown and understand which solution is more practical. Note that lockdown itself is not enough to save you. Instead, everyone has to strictly follow all Covid-19 guidelines and maintain good health and hygiene.

In lockdown phase 1, when the whole country underwent a strict and complete lockdown, much middle class lost their means of livelihood, the people suffered a lot, and the migrant workers and students got stuck in unknown places. Thus the Government does not want to impose such stringent measures around the country that may impact most citizens. This time around, the states were asked to impose partial or complete lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. So many states imposed a partial lockdown when the number of cases started rising. However, it didn’t work out at all due to the negligence of the citizens. Let us now see why partial lockdown failed in most regions.

Partial lockdown hardly reached anybody’s ears. It has become a norm that as long as the police do not arrest anybody, it is safe to disobey Government rules and regulations in lockdown. The Governments are to be blamed as well. The Kumbha Mela at Haridwar turned out to be the biggest super spreader of Covid-19 in the world. People from all over the country gathered at Haridwar to take a bath in the Holy Ganga during Kumbha Mela. Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand happened to be the primary source of the Mumbai strain of the Sars-Cov-2 virus after Mumbai. Also to be blamed are the election rallies in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Assam that accounted for a significant outbreak of the virus in these states. The markets are to be blamed as well. There was a sudden urge of everybody to go out shopping, and in February and March, people behaved as if there was never any pandemic situation here. The Chaitra sale in Kolkata looked as if pre-pandemic times had returned. Schools reopened only to be shut down immediately due to teachers and students getting affected.

Amidst all these, Delhi, Mumbai and Lucknow were the worst affected cities that faced a severe oxygen crisis. The travellers were by far responsible for spreading the virus to some metropolitan cities and rural countryside. Today, a chunk of the country’s population are migrant workers, and a significant number of middle-class families are tourism-lovers. The Bengal strain, an escape immunity variant of Sars-Cov-2, had actually spread in January 2021, when the tourism-lovers visited tourist places and workers migrated to other states for work when lockdown restrictions were lifted.

However, complete lockdown instead of partial lockdown worked in favour of curbing the spread of coronavirus. It is evident from the figures that peak was achieved in many states in mid-May, and the number of cases has declined since. Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu have battled the coronavirus and are now looking forward to easing lockdown restrictions. However, this time the Government is not taking it lightly, as the severity of the second wave forced the Government and the citizens to be aware of an even more destructive third wave shortly. Also, vaccination drive has hoped to limit the damage caused by Sars-Cov-19 in the body.

With Bengal, Odisha, Assam and some other states yet to reach their peak caseload, it is expected that despite easing situations in other parts, these states still have to maintain their lockdown restrictions to minimize further damage by Covid-19. One of the best practical moves is creating awareness and enforcing a few conditions for a few more weeks so that there is not much congestion of people in a particular area. Limitation of market hours, refrain from rallies, festivals, and gatherings, restriction of people’s movement through public transport are good options. The Home-delivery system should be increased and implemented in as many fields as possible. Virtual conferences, online classes, and work from home should be a part of the new normal until the virus is eliminated from the country. If China can do it, New Zealand can do it, Australia and some other countries can do it, then we Indians can do it as well.

Written by – Himadri Paul