The central government, worried about the Covid-19 numbers peaking amidst the twin challenges of festive season and winters, has asked states to come up with a countrywide media campaign to ask people to “not let their guard down”.
Union Home secretary Ajay Bhalla held a virtual meeting with all state government officials in this regard on Tuesday. “Data suggests that winter chill adds to Covid spike. The festive season of Dussera, Durga Puja, Diwali, also Eid-ul-Milad-e-Nabi are all in the winter months and lockdown has ended; hence the need was felt by Centre to emphasise this campaign country-wide,” an official told News18.
Officials said state governments have been asked to come back with radio and TV spots and campaign messages for print and social media in local languages keeping in mind local cultural sensitivities. The campaign will emphasise “masking, social distancing and hand washing,” as it’s the central theme. Officials told News18 that religious and social media influencers will be roped in the campaign to ensure behaviourial changes in the population.
Officials of I&B ministry, CAPF, NDMA and MHA also attended the meeting. The countrywide awareness campaign will begin within this fortnight, said officers.
The big focus will be on states of West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra. While Bengal sees rush in Durga Puja pandals, Mysore Dussera in Karnataka and Garba congregations in Gujarat also see huge crowds. Maharashtra has the maximum Covid-19 numbers in the country.
Meanwhile, Cautioning the people about the rising number of COVID-19 infections in the state, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said that the pandemic protocol should not be violated during the coming Durga Puja.
She said that the marquees should be made open and airy and the pandal hoppers should avoid jostling and maintain proper physical distancing.
“People should go for shopping. Shops will remain open. Otherwise, how will they do business? But while shopping for the pujas people should not forget about the protocol,” she said.