West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said coronavirus-related restrictions cannot be imposed everywhere as it may impact the economy as has been the case since the onset of the pandemic.
Speaking to reporters while visiting the Sagar Island in South 24 Parganas district where the annual Ganga Sagar Mela will begin next month, Banerjee said COVID-19 cases in Kolkata were rising as it was a transit point for people travelling on trains and flights.
“Most omicron cases are being detected among people coming on flights from the UK. It’s a fact that the omicron carriers are coming via international flights. The Centre must decide on imposing restrictions on flights from countries where omicron cases are high,” she said.
Banerjee said that her government was reviewing the emerging pandemic situation “seriously” and hinted that a decision will be taken regarding restriction, taking the economy into account.
“We have to look after the safety and security of the people. We will soon make a decision. We will target places where the cases are going up. We cannot impose restrictions everywhere because that may affect the economy as it has in the last two years,” she said.
“Let us assess the situation first. In the last two years, business has gone down to zero. We will review the situation at schools and colleges. We will also assess if omicron is spreading among kids. A decision will only be made after that,” Banerjee added.
The chief minister said the COVID-19 situation in West Bengal improved in the last six months. “COVID-19 cases came down in the last six-seven months. Hospitals started using the dedicated COVID beds to treat other patients. So, we will have to review the current situation,” she said.
“COVID-19 cases in Kolkata are rising because it’s the transit point for people travelling on trains and flights. I will request everyone to follow COVID guidelines and wear masks,” Banerjee said.
Asked whether the state government was mulling any restrictions for the pilgrims coming to West Bengal to attend Ganga Sagar Mela, the chief minister said the congregation was of the common people.
“You don’t worry about Ganga Sagar. This is not mine, but a festival attended by people from across the country. How can I stop someone coming from UP or Bihar? I can’t stop anyone as Ganga Sagar belongs to everyone in the country,” Banerjee said as she boarded a helicopter for Kolkata, ending her three-day tour of the island after reviewing the preparedness.
She also urged the people to maintain extreme caution.
“Omicron is not fatal but spreading fast. The other day, (MLA) Tapas Roy was present at Bobby’s (Firhad Hakim) meeting. Tapas is now Covid-positive. I don’t know how many more people will now be affected,” Banerjee said.