People in large numbers gathered at popular tourist spots in Kolkata and elsewhere in West Bengal to celebrate the new year on Saturday, while Covid-19 cases are rising alarmingly in the state. Revellers throng places such as the Alipore Zoo, Eco Park, Victoria Memorial and the Indian Museum in and around the metropolis, and sea beaches of Digha, Mandarmani and Bakkhali.
Bengal on Saturday recorded two more cases of Omicron variant, taking the total number of cases in the state to 16, a senior health official said. One of the new patients came from Odisha while a local person tested positive for Omicron at the India-Bangladesh international border in Petrapole in North 24 Parganas district, he said.
”The person who came from Odisha, and the one who tested positive at Petrapole are undergoing treatment in Kolkata. The total number of cases has increased to 16,” the official said. Meanwhile, five other travellers who recently arrived in West Bengal from other countries tested positive for the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Though the number of people appears to be less compared to that during Christmas day, the police had a tough time controlling the crowd and making them follow Covid-19 preventive protocols such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. A section of people also went to theatres to enjoy movies or to restaurants for a meal on the occasion.
The famous Kali temples at Kalighat and Dakshineswar which usually draw a large number of devotees on the new year’s day were closed for visitors and so was the Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission (RKM). The annual ‘Kalpataru Utsav’ held on January 1 at Kashipur Udyanbati, which also attracts thousands of people, was out of bounds for devotees like last year, an RKM spokesperson said.
Monks of the order believe that on this day in 1886, Sri Ramakrishna had been blessed with the inner vision (‘Chaitanya’) at this north Kolkata house. It is also believed that he had become ‘Kalpataru’, the mythical wish-fulfilling tree, on the same day. However, the Kamarpukur and Joyrambati units of the RKM in Hooghly and Bankura districts respectively were open and many visited the two places.
Sri Ramakrishna and Sarada Devi, his spiritual consort, were born in Kamarpukur and Joyrambati respectively. West Bengal is witnessing a spurt in Covid-19 cases for the last few days. On Saturday, it reported 4,512 fresh infections, 1,061 more than the previous day’s figure, with Kolkata accounting for 2,398 fresh cases. Greeting people on the occasion of the new year, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged them to follow Covid-19 protocols.