Tired of adhering to Covid restrictions, lockdowns, shutdowns and night curfew as well as frequent changes in treatment protocol, the people at large have stopped taking the government seriously when it cautions against laxity during the festive season.
On Saturday, the health department authorities discussed with the centre on several measures and precautions that need to be taken during Durga puja festival to avert a rise in Covid cases.
As such the Odisha government has imposed night curfew in urban hubs of state capital Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, banned pandal hopping and directed that the puja will be more like an ‘indoor’ one.
This is a crucial period , we need to be on guard and step up enforcement as well as vigil . People have to avoid crowdIng , iterated health department officers.
But the cynical reaction of the common man, shopkeeper and those struggling for livelihood is ‘ did Covid decline after all the restrictions, vaccination or was the virus simply following its own natural pattern of peak and fall’.
The ‘fear factor’ has clearly disappeared. Fatigue added with confusion over guidelines, mode of treatment ( said to be due to multiple variants) etc plus the vaccination has resulted in a kind of complacency among the masses.
Bhubaneswar boasted of being the first city to achieve hundred percent vaccination several months ago and yet there were long queues in front of vaccination centres .
While Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other such cities had witnessed a peak and a sharp fall in the Covid graph, the number of cases in Bhubaneswar rarely dropped below 150 per day. The situation in Cuttack was almost similar though the cases did fall much below that of Bhubaneswar.
Significantly these two cities are the ones where much of the puja activity takes place.
Will all the ‘wise men’ sitting in the state health department tell us why Bhubaneswar and Cuttack did not see a drop in number of cases like in Delhi, Mumbai or even Kolkata, will they tell us what about people from Odisha enjoying Durga puja shopping in Kolkata where there is a lot of relaxation and returning or the facilitation by the railways which runs special trains during the festive season between Kolkata and Bhubaneswar.
These are some of the questions discussed at every street corner at the marketplace in both the cities. Will the spread of Covid stop , if we impose curfew and restrictions on puja celebrations while people move in and out of Bengal and other states, they ask.
Odisha cannot insulate itself, so the risks will remain and one can only hope that the Covid graph does not shoot up again, they remark.
The first line of defence put out by the health department officials saying Bhubaneswar and Cuttack are trade and administrative hubs fell flat in the face of the situation in Delhi , Mumbai , Kolkata and other such cities.
Then came the second version of ‘fatty tail’ phenomenon of the pandemic where the graphs fall but the numbers remain steady for a long period. When this did not convince many, the third submission by officials was that the number of tests conducted is higher in the state capital than in other parts of the state and the positivity is less than one percent.
The other set of rather dismissive talk among people here centers around the changes in treatment protocol – HCQ, Plasma therapy and creation of plasma banks, ivermectin tablets have all been promoted and dropped as per guidelines while many doctors.
The commonly observed conclusion among people in urban areas is – it is still an unknown , invisible enemy and nobody knows about the right line of treatment as yet. We have to live with it and its virility has died down, they add.
Such feelings and perceptions override the kind of caution that the government expects from people during the Durga Puja festival.