GUWAHATI: The Durga Puja celebration in Assam this time around will be a low-key affair as the state government has issued a set of guidelines for the puja committees to thwart the spread of Covid-19.
There will be open puja “mandaps” with entry and exit gates. The government has made it mandatory for the members of all puja committees, as well as priests and others, to undergo COVID-19 tests before and after the puja. Not more than 50 persons will be allowed at a mandap at a time and devotees and puja committee members will be required to wear masks.
Also, all mandaps will be required to close down at 10 pm sharp. The government banned pillion riding for men and cultural programmes during the five days’ of puja. However, “aarti” at mandaps will be allowed.
“I can officially tell you that the pandemic has started flattening in Assam. The positivity rate, which had once touched 9%, is now hovering above 3%. If we remain alert for the next few days, we will achieve more success,” Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told journalists on Tuesday.
Of the nearly 1.08 lakh people tested on Monday, only 1,521 people were found to be positive. Sarma said the positivity rate had been constantly plummeting since October 6. He said 10% of the state’s population had been tested. In Guwahati, which has an estimated population of 10 lakh, six lakh have been tested.
“Altogether 826 people died of the disease so far in Assam. Around 1,000 others died due to various other diseases. Even if we attribute all these deaths to the pandemic, yet our mortality rate will be less than 1%. The recovery rate is 85%,” Sarma said.
The positivity rate was found to be going down in the last week of September when one lakh people each were tested for three consecutive days. The minister said only those people, who carried symptoms, were made to undergo RT-PCR tests while rapid antigen tests were prescribed for others.
“Knowledge about the disease is more important than vaccines. People have learnt what they should do in case they have the symptoms. There are worries about a possible wave during winter. So, we have to be careful. Flattening or no flattening, we have to continue conducting the tests,” Sarma said.
He added that the frontline staff and people above 60 years would be first administered vaccines when available.