Coronavirus cases in Kolkata are soaring with positivity rate at 37.54 per cent on January 5. Since January 1, the number of cases has jumped from 2,000 to 6,000. A massive number of health workers, as well as those from Kolkata Police and Kolkata Municipal Corporation have been infected.
News18 speaks to Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, whose only appeal to people is to mask up, follow Covid-19 guidelines and not venture out unless it is for an emergency. Hakim said the Centre should start a booster doze for all. Excerpts from an interview:
Why do you think that Kolkata is witnessing such a massive surge in cases with the positivity rate at 37.54 per cent?
Those who have symptoms are undergoing testing. Close to 40 per cent of those infected are asymptomatic, and they are not getting tested. Asymptomatic patients are becoming super spreaders. The spread rate in this wave is high, even though hospitalisation rate is low. People are getting infected and they are recovering. People of Kolkata are not health conscious; they are not bothered about anything. Even though the festive season is over, they are still roaming around without any reason.
The opposition is saying relaxed norms on December 25 and 31 has led to this surge. What is your take?
During Durga Puja, too, people came out in large numbers and, as usual, they were reluctant to wear masks but there was no surge. The infectivity rate is high in the third wave. People are getting infected in no time, and that is reason behind the surge. There is no other reason.
What is Kolkata Municipal Corporation doing to combat the surge?
We are working on a war footing. We have put stress on campaigning, vaccination and sanitisation. In the campaign module, our workers are going out with microphones to almost each ward, each street. They are urging people to mask up and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. We have installed hoardings across the city displaying all Covid norms. We have started a ‘no mask, no sale’ rule in marketplaces. Those who do not wear a mask will not be entertained by shopkeepers.
We are also boosting vaccinations and stressing more on getting teenagers vaccinated. We are waiting for January 10 and urging the Centre to start a booster shot for all. Health workers, co-morbid senior citizens are priority but a booster is required for others too.
Right now, we have 48 containment zones and are assessing the situation daily. Mainly, cases are from high-rise buildings. We are sanitising infected areas and every street of Kolkata.
A lot of police personnel, civic employees and health workers have been infected. How are you managing?
We are working with 50 per cent attendance. Lots of workers are getting infected. We are trying to manage. Since maximum positive cases are asymptomatic, new guidelines for seven-day isolation will be a great help. Those who are asymptomatic and have mild symptoms can join after seven days.
Where do you see the situation going from here?
The infection rate is high but hospitalisation requirement and serious cases are not there. We are monitoring the situation every day with our health experts, and they are saying the peak will come in the later part of January and, in February, it will drop. We are fighting the virus and we will overcome it.
What is your message for the people of Kolkata?
People should stay safe and wear a mask. Wearing a mask is a must. People should not lower their guard and go out only if it’s necessary and in case of an emergency. We must not panic and fight the virus together.