KOLKATA: The West Bengal government on Tuesday appealed to people to avoid bursting firecrackers during the upcoming Kali Puja and Diwali festivals in order to check air pollution which is hazardous for COVID-19 patients.
"With everybody's cooperation, we want to hold the Kali Puja and Diwali festivals avoiding firecrackers. The administration appeals to people to avoid firecrackers," Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said.
No procession will be allowed during the immersion of the Kali idols, he said after holding a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in this regard.
Bandyopadhyay said that Kali puja pandals should be open, following COVID-19 safety protocols.
"Puja committees should ensure that visitors wear masks, maintain physical distancing and hygiene," he said.
On a day the Centre said that West Bengal is one of the four states that have shown an increase in the number of coronavirus infections in the past one month, the state government claimed that the situation is improving.
The weekly death rate, positivity rate and the infection rate have been descending in West Bengal, Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said on Tuesday.
The top official, however, did not divulge any figure to buttress his point.
"Though people had come out on the streets to celebrate the Durga puja, the weekly death rate, positivity rate as well as the infection rate have been falling.
This has helped build our confidence, though we are aggressively working to develop the (health) infrastructure," he said.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in New Delhi on Tuesday that Kerala, Delhi, West Bengal and Manipur have shown an increase in the number of coronavirus infections between October 3 and November 3.
In its bulletin on Monday, the health department had said that the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state was 3,81,608 after 3,957 fresh cases were reported, while the discharge rate was 88.59 per cent.
The COVID-19 death toll in West Bengal crossed the 7,000-mark to reach 7,013 on Tuesday after 56 more people succumbed to the disease, the health department said in a bulletin.
The total number of recoveries reached 3,42,133 after 4,058 people tested negative for the infection.
The bulletin said that 3,981 fresh positive cases reported from across the state pushed the tally to 3,85,589.
The number of active cases currently is 35,443, it said.
Since Monday, 44,176 samples were tested for COVID-19 in West Bengal.
Odisha bans firecrackers
The Odisha government on Tuesday banned the sale and use of firecrackers across the state during the festive season to check air pollution which can aggravate health conditions of COVID-19 patients.
The period of the ban is from November 10 to 30, according to a government order.
The people of the state burst firecrackers on the occasion of Deepavali and Kartik Purnima, which fell on November 14 and 30 respectively this year.
Chief Secretary A K Tripathy issued a direction to prohibit sale and use of firecrackers in all parts of the state from November 10 to 30.
"Any person found violating this order shall be punished under the provision of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and other relevant laws," the order said.
"Considering the potentially harmful consequences of burning of crackers amidst COVID-l9 pandemic situation and approaching winter, Government of Odisha, therefore, prohibits the sale and use of fire crackers from 10th to 30th of November,2020 in public interest," the chief secretary said.
Deepavali is the festival of lights and it may be celebrated in the traditional way by lighting of earthen lamps, candles and other traditional lighting materials.
Stating that the spread of COVID-19 pandemic has been controlled in Odisha to a significant extent, the order said that the people at large supported the government in controlling the situation.
Though the number of active cases has shown a dip in the state, the danger is still very much present, Tripathy said adding that COVID-19 resurfaced in some parts of the country and in the world forcing them to re-impose lockdowns and other extreme measures to contain the situation and further spread of the disease.
Tripathy also pointed out that the international experience shows that the coming winter season may see further spread of the pandemic.
It is generally observed that elderly people, children, persons with comorbidities and others develop respiratory problems during winter, he said.
This apart, the air pollution, higher concentration of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) in the air aggravates the respiratory problems.
"It is a well-known fact that burning of the fire crackers releases copious amounts of harmful chemicals like nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, which have severe impact on the respiratory health of vulnerable groups," he said.
Such pollutants can further aggravate health conditions of COVID-19 positive persons besides persons staying in home isolation, he said.
The chief secretary also issued an instruction to the local administrations and police to take measures for the implementation of the order.