Kolkata counts down to a very festive Christmas

The city of joy has not looked this vibrant since the pandemic began. with Park Street bathed in colourful lights and giant billboards

A festive air has gripped the ‘City of Joy’ as it celebrates Christmas with a spirit that matches that of the pre-pandemic days, even though doctors have advocated caution amidst fears of another wave of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant.

Never has Kolkata looked this vibrant in the past two years — not even during Durga Puja — with Park Street, the home of Christmas celebrations, bathed in colourful lights, and giant billboards once again mushrooming all over the city, selling cakes, luxury homes and cough syrup in the same breath. At many places, decorations compete with Trinamool Congress flags that have been put up to celebrate the party’s victory in the recently-held elections for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

The scene is in sharp contrast to that of Delhi, where Christmas and New Year celebrations have been restricted following a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. Kolkata, so far, has recorded two Omicron cases: both patients had returned from abroad and remain admitted in city hospitals.

It was last Monday that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the highly popular Kolkata Christmas Festival at Allen Park on Park Street, where the crib is installed and carols are sung and live concerts are held. Events here usually go on for ten days, with a two-day break on Christmas-eve and on Christmas Day.

“The energy levels were unbelievable. It was good to see my city this vibrant after a long, long time. I am really hoping that the worst is now behind us and that we enter the New Year happier and healthier,” said Deepa Chatterjee, a homemaker from Ballygunge, who visited Allen Park with her husband on Thursday evening to listen to the St. Thomas church choir.

One of the primary attractions of the festival is a performance by the Kolkata Police band; their performance this year is scheduled on December 27. Among the local bands that will perform this season include Triangle M, Paridhi, Whale in the Pond, and Humsufi. The decorative lights over Park Street, which make a lively background for pictures and selfies, shall remain in place till January 10.

The West Bengal Doctors’ Forum (WBDF) has issued a public appeal, calling for caution and increased vaccination. “Many countries are experiencing a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. Though complications and mortality are very low, a large number of infected people may overburden the healthcare system as well as cause undue suffering… We appeal to governments at the Centre and the State to ensure complete and rapid vaccine coverage and to consider vaccination for those below 18 years and booster doses for frontline workers and the vulnerable,” the WBDF said.

Dr. Rahul Jain, a well-known internal medicine specialist who has attended to over 3,000 COVID-19 cases, said: “The symptoms [of Omicron] are likely to be milder but the chances of reinfection in persons who have suffered an attack of COVID-19 previously are much higher. There is also a chance of infection in people who are double-vaccinated. What we have learnt from the first two waves is that masks and social distancing can stop any variant of COVID-19. They are low cost and easy to implement.”

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