Post-Christmas, Kolkata sees spurt in COVID-19 cases

Many say that celebrations on Park Street may have contributed to spike

There is a sudden spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases in Kolkata post-Christmas, sparking fears of yet another wave that may overwhelm the city’s health infrastructure.

Before the countdown began for Christmas celebrations, the city recorded around 200 new cases a day, a figure that has now shot up to almost 400. On December 21, for example, the whole of West Bengal reported 440 new cases, with Kolkata accounting for 177 of them. On December 28, these figures stood at 752 and 382 respectively.

“We were expecting it. It will turn into a wave — we also know that. It’s the size of the wave and the impact it will have on healthcare infrastructure, both government and private, that remains to be seen. Omicron is known to be less severe, but if a very large number of people gets infected, a portion of them will get admitted to hospitals and that is the number we are waiting to see,” said leading ENT specialist Dr. Arjun Dasgupta.

Dr. Koushik Chaki, a founding member of the West Bengal Doctors’ Forum (WBDF) , said: “Although illness caused by Omicron is milder in nature, this variant is three to four times more transmissible compared to the other strains including Delta, which had caused havoc during the second wave. So, the chances of more people getting infected will be very high with Omicron. This will cause a severe patient load on the community; and the vulnerable population, including the unvaccinated ones, may add up to a huge upsurge of patients needing care in specialised hospital setting.”

Kolkata once again — and quite suddenly — appears to be inching back to the situation when almost everybody had a family member or a friend or acquaintance getting infected with COVID-19. Suparna Mukherjee, an HR professional with a well-known confectionary company, who was already infected last April and who got her second dose of vaccine in July, has once again tested positive. On Monday morning, hours after she had attended a birthday party and hours before she was to attend another, Ms. Mukherjee came down with high fever and a sore throat and got an RT-PCR test done.

“It all began with my feeling somewhat dizzy, after which I had a headache, and then the dizziness returned. The dizziness and headache stayed for two days before I came down with fever, and that’s when I decided to get tested. People who came in contact with me are getting tested too; I am more concerned about them than myself,” Ms. Mukherjee said.

Many see the Christmas celebrations on Park Street as having contributed to the sudden spurt. This time of the year — starting around December 21 until the early days of the new year — thousands descend on Park Street to walk under the decorative lights and soak in the carnival-like atmosphere. This year, on Christmas evening, photographs showed an unbelievably large gathering on the stretch, with no restrictions whatsoever in place.

“People not maintaining COVID-appropriate behaviour and the government not implementing restrictions have resulted in the spike,” said Dr. Punyabrata Gun of WBDF. “One cannot say at the moment whether there will be a wave. The ICMR opines there will be spikes but not a wave.”

Dr. Chaki added: “Genome sequencing of positive samples may be made mandatory and neighbourhoods with significant case load may be considered for containment. Special care for the aged and the vulnerable population, and a healthy workforce with their morale high — this is the only way forward.”

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