By Siddhartha Tripathy
Being home to the best hotels, clubs and social venues in Odisha, Bhubaneswar also becomes the state’s de facto party capital on every New Year’s Eve.
Not this time, though.
As many residents and prospective visitors had fearfully anticipated after a Government of Odisha order banned large social gatherings to stem the spread of Covid-19 cases late last month, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation has recently issued a notice in keeping with that order.
There shall be no parties, celebrations and congregations at any public place during the countdown to the turn of the year on December 31.
Instead, people have been advised to celebrate the arrival of 2021 with their near and dear ones privately and with due adherence to Covid-19 safety norms.
Those fretting about it should not. There is more than one reason why the government is justified in doing what it has done.
Firstly, the pandemic is far from over. Over the past 24 hours, there have been as many as 22 new Covid-19 cases reported in Bhubaneswar alone. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the city has seen 31,577 cases and lost 239 people. The recovery rate has been encouragingly high, with 31,028 cases, but this is no time for the government to drop its guard. There are 289 active cases in the state capital at present and mass vaccination against the deadly coronavirus has yet to commence.
Secondly, if left to themselves, people are simply not cautious enough. Flouting of Covid-19 protocol, whether it be social distancing or wearing of masks, is not an uncommon sight in Bhubaneswar.
The most recent – and most egregious – example of this is the untraceability of 62 out of the 181 people who returned from the United Kingdom to Odisha during the November 30-December 21 period.
Among the 119 returnees on whom RT-PCR test (the best test to detect COVID-19 infection) and genome sequencing was done, six tested Covid-positive. But the state Health Department has been unable to reach the remainder – more than a third – of the returnees by phone (as calls go unanswered) or physically (as they are not found at their declared addresses either).
All this, at a time when the discovery of a mutant – and faster spreading – strain of Covid-19 virus in Britain has made many nations around the world (including India, from December 21) raise their guard and ban flights to and from the island nation.
When all is said and done, given the prevailing circumstances, there can still be no such thing as being too careful about Covid-19. The Naveen Patnaik government knows that all too well, and so should everyone else in the state.
As for Bhubaneswar, it will be better off by far with a quieter New Year’s Eve.