With Durga Puja pandals becoming “No Entry” zones – as per an instruction of the Calcutta High Court – and Puja committees deciding to move court on Tuesday to seek a review of the order, Durga Puja 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into a major challenge for the state administration.

After Monday’s court order, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked the police authorities to ensure that people are wearing masks. They have been asked to be polite but firm while interacting with people, said an official. The CM has also asked officials to ensure that no one is turned away if they seek help regarding medical emergencies especially during the five days of the festival.

There have been worries with people on a shopping spree in the run-up to the Durga Puja and an increase in the COVID-19 cases in the state. While the state government has been repeatedly appealing to people to avoid crowding and to wear masks, shopping malls and markets are crowded with people out on puja shopping. Many are not wearing masks. This has led to fears that puja pandals are likely to be crowded as well. The CM asked the top officials – including the state DGP, Kolkata Police commissioner, other police commissioners across the state and police superintendents to ensure crowding is avoided and people wear masks.

COVID warriors, green police and civic volunteers will also be used to make people aware of taking precautions before venturing out during the Pujas. People are mostly being asked to stay indoors and to watch the puja through social media and television.

The state police will distribute 10 lakh masks, while Kolkata Police and Kolkata Municipal Corporation will distribute 5 lakh masks each. The district administration has been asked to ensure whether COVID-19 protocols are being followed in all Durga Puja pandals.

The CM has also asked officials to ensure people get help for COVID related issues, including getting admission in hospitals especially during the festival days. Medical and emergency services tend to get affected during festivals but that should not be the case this time was what the CM instructed, said an official. Ambulance and other services relating to coronavirus must be especially active around this time, she said.

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