India may be witnessing a decline in the daily number of Covid-19 cases being reported across the country, but the news of a coronavirus variant discovered in the UK, which is rumoured to have a spread rate of 70 percent, has sent the government into a state of frenzy. While the Centre has banned flights to and from the UK till December 31, some states have decided to launch Covid-19 related protocols and guidelines for the upcoming festive season.
The first case of Covid-19 in India was detected in January 2020. In the last 11 months, the Covid-19 curve took several erratic turns, as it shifted its epicentre from Kerala to Maharashtra to Delhi from time to time. However, what remained constant is that the number of cases saw a drastic increase after festivals.
As a result, many a state is on a vigil with Christmas and New Year around the corner.
The Uttarakhand government has announced that public places, hotels, and bars will not be permitted to hold programmes, parties and public gatherings in connection with Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day in wake of the rise in coronavirus cases, while Maharashtra has announced a seven-hour night curfew across the state from December 22 to January 5. Churches will not be permitted to hold midnight masses on Christmas Eve or on New Year’s Eve. Only 200 people will be allowed in each mass.
In Dehradun, the district administration has banned collective celebrations like parties at hotels, bars, restaurants and other public places on Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year to stop the spread of Covid-19
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted, “People should celebrate New Year with family in their house, avoid overcrowding and do not burst firecrackers. It is necessary for the health of oneself and others. Rajasthan will strictly follow the directions issued by Supreme Court for all the states regarding corona.”
Manipur in November had declared night curfew to last till December end. The curfew hours were 6 pm to 4 am and the state government had declared that the night curfew orders in Manipur will continue till December 31 or until further orders, whichever is earlier. The Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, on December 11, acting on the complaints of mass violations of COVID-19 curbs at weddings and parties, extended the night curfew and ordered restrictions on the number of people in indoor events and outdoor gatherings. The night curfew hours in Punjab will be from 10 pm to 5 am and will stay in effect till January 1.
Karnataka issued an order prohibiting celebrations and programmes between December 30 and January 2 at clubs, pubs, restaurants, and other places where people gather for New Year celebrations, citing the prevailing Covid-19 situation. The government also released a set of guidelines, including barring the public from making hand shakes or hugging during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
The Health Department in Telangana in the meantime is urging people to avoid mass gatherings during Christmas and New Year celebrations, while Tamil Nadu has banned celebrations on New Year’s eve at restaurants, hotels, clubs, resorts, including beach resorts. Celebrations are also banned on roads and beaches on December 31 and January 1 in Tamil Nadu.
The Puducherry government however, has decided to allow celebrations in open spaces including Beach road.
Meanwhile in Kerala, with the reopening of several sectors and no restriction on people’s movement, a feeling that everything is normal is getting ingrained in society. The government’s decision to reopen schools/colleges on January 1 has set alarm bells ringing for the health department. Making matters worse is the possibility of a holiday wave triggered by Christmas and New Year celebrations. Following the caution issued by the health department, the annual Cochin Carnival has been called off this year. This is said to be the first time in its history that the carnival, celebrated since the early 1980s, has been cancelled.