Mamata says she cannot stop Ganga Sagar Mela even as COVID cases rise alarmingly in West Bengal, but suspends flights from the U.K.

Published : December 30, 2021 20:19 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inspecting arrangements for the Ganga Sagar Mela in South 24 Parganas district, on December 29. Photo: PTI

The Ganga Sagar Mela, which is to be held from January 8 to January 16, attracts lakhs of pilgrims from all over India.

Even as COVID cases are rising at an alarming rate in West Bengal, the State is gearing up for the Ganga Sagar Mela, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee making it clear that she will neither stop the mega fair from taking place nor place any restrictions upon the number of people attending it. Addressing the media on December 30, before returning from her three-day visit to Ganga Sagar, Mamata said, "This is not a State government festival, it is a public event. People come from distant places, do I stop them from coming? If someone wants to come from U.P. or Bihar, it is not in my hands. Those who feel they should not come will not come, and those who will come will maintain COVID protocol. But I cannot stop it, as this event belongs to the entire country."

Mamata also suggested that if the Kumbh Mela can take place then there is no reason for Ganga Sagar Mela to be stopped. "Why are you interested in Ganga Sagar Mela? Ask about Kumbh Mela. You don’t have to worry about Ganga Sagar," she said. The Ganga Sagar Mela, which is to be held from January 8 to January 16, attracts lakhs of pilgrims from all over India.

The Chief Minister admitted that COVID cases have been on the rise and requested everybody to adhere to COVID restrictions, wear masks and use sanitisers. She pointed out that the spread of Omicron cases is due to people landing in the State from abroad. "I personally love the U.K., but we have been seeing that maximum COVID cases are coming from the U.K.," said Mamata. The same day Additional Chief Secretary B.P. Gopalika wrote to Rajiv Bansal, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, informing him that the West Bengal government "has decided to temporarily and until further orders suspend all direct flights from United Kingdom to Kolkata with effect from 3rd January 2022." The letter further stated that flights from an "at risk country as notified by the MOHFW [Ministry of Health and Family Welfare] will not be allowed in the State and any NOCs which have been issued stand withdrawn".

On December 30, the number of new COVID cases jumped to 2,128 from 1,089 cases recorded the previous day. The total number of active cases in the State stood at 9,825 and the total number of deaths at 19,769, including 12 persons who lost their lives on December 30. Of the 2,128 new cases, Kolkata alone accounted for 1,090 cases, followed by North 24 Parganas with 315 cases. The State government had lifted the night curfew (from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.) for the last week of December in view of the Christmas and New Year celebrations. On December 23, before the night curfew was lifted, the number of new cases registered was just 516, and the number of deaths stood at six.

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