KOLKATA: West Bengal is heading towards severe outbreak of the second wave of coronavirus as the people are not adhering to the protocol to check its spread and large numbers of them are participating in the innumerable rallies and campaigns by political leaders across the poll-bound state almost daily, city doctors fear.
They warned that this violation of the COVID-19 protocol may lead to a situation similar to the one in 2020 after the outbreak of the pandemic across the globe.
Sanjib Bandyopadhyay, in-charge of the post-COVID follow-up clinic at the Infectious Diseases and Beliaghata General (ID&BG) Hospital, which was a designated COVID-19 hospital, foresees a "severe outbreak" of contagion the state in the near future.
Sisir Naskar, the superintendent of M R Bangur Hospital, another designated coronavirus hospital, blamed the laxity of the common people for the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in the state.
"In the case of any pandemic, second and third waves are inevitable as per the law of the nature. These will eventually go away but there cannot be a careless attitude. In our state, the laxity of the common people in fighting the disease is the primary reason behind the rise in the incidences of the disease," he said.
Bandopadhyay said the chances of more people being affected by the contagion is high in the state as more and more of them are participating in political rallies and meetings without wearing masks.
Chances of virus transmission are higher in rallies because more droplets come out from the mouths of leaders when they address rallies and people surrounding him shout slogans - most of them without masks.
This puts people near them to risk, he said.
"It is quite a risky situation. We are seeing large number of people participating in rallies and meetings by political parties in West Bengal and not bothering about the norms which should be followed during this pandemic," he said.
We are heading towards a severe outbreak of the disease here in West Bengal and it may happen even before the elections are over.
And if this happens, there will be another crisis in the state in which the hospitals may not be able to accommodate many of the affected," city-based obstetrician-gynaecologist Hiralal Konar said.
The eighth and the last phase of election in West Bengal is slated for April 29.
According to Konar, the second wave of the dreaded coronavirus, which has already hit the state, could have been delayed by another two to three months had the common people followed the precautionary measures.
He blamed the lackadaisical attitude of the common people like not wearing proper masks and not maintaining physical distancing norms for the recent spike in the number of infections.
Konar also blamed the political leaders of irresponsible attitude for organising campaign rallies putting to risk the lives of the common people participating in them.
"The casual attitude of the people is quite dangerous. We have seen this sudden spike in the number of coronavirus over the last fortnight. The situation is aggravated by holding political rallies and meetings where norms are violated by everybody.
"If the situation deteriorates further and there is only a caretaker government due to the election, the common people will face a very difficult situation," he cautioned.
The principal of ID&BG Hospital Anima Halder echoed Konar and blamed the casual approach of the people for the sudden spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in West Bengal.
She said, "You cannot blame the political parties alone. I have seen people doing away with their masks and violating the physical distancing norm since Durga Puja last year.
They sit and chat in tea stalls, participate in social gatherings and weddings, celebrate Holi.
"The rise in coronavirus incidences is therefore inevitable. We cannot shrug off our responsibilities. The situation is grim and will deteriorate," Mondal said when contacted.
"We cannot take things lightly thinking that there are vaccines now. There are people, who after being vaccinated are randomly violating the safety protocols without understanding the gravity of the situation," she added.
Senior physician Syamasis Bandyopadhyay said that there is no data to support that the recent surge in the state is due to political rallies.
"It is the complacency of the people which led to this situation," he said when asked.
"The COVID-19 situation deteriorated in Maharashtra though there was no political rally nor any election there at the time. There is no data to prove that the situation worsened in West Bengal because of the political rallies and campaigning. It is the people who are at fault," he said.
In the past 30 to 40 days, West Bengal has witnessed a four-fold surge in COVID-19 cases.
On Sunday the state saw 827 new cases of the infection, the highest so far this year, a bulletin released by the state health department said.
The maximum number of 292 cases was registered in the city and another 193 in adjacent North 24 Parganas district, it said.
In October 2020 during the Durga Puja festival in the state, the daily COVID-19 infection rate had risen beyond 4000.
It had dropped to 130 in February this year.
Incidentally, when the state was witnessing a surge in the COVID-19 cases last year, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had blamed political rallies and the protests for it.
The prevalence of the disease was then highest among the police who were deployed to maintain law and order and were among the frontline warriors against the disease.
All the medical experts stressed on enhancing testing facilities and expediting vaccination to control its spread.
"We must increase the number of tests daily which is the only way to ascertain the number of people contaminated. Besides, we need to raise the awareness level of the people to make them wear masks and maintain physical distancing," Konar said.
Mass scale vaccination will be the best way to tackle the COVID-19 surge, Syamasis Bandyopadhyay said.
"Since, we have the vaccines now we must quickly inoculate people. The more the people are vaccinated, the stronger will be our fight against COVID-19. Not only this, we also need to continuously message people to raise their awareness on wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing," he said.