West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned people about the growing graph of Covid infections, pointing out that the new Omicron variant is spreading faster, while ushering in the Kolkata Christmas festival at Allen Park here Monday.
Banerjee also called for unity among people of all faiths to forge a strong India, while calling on people to spread the joy of Christmas and encouraging replication of the festival celebrations for which Kolkata is well known, in d other towns in the state with historic churches.
“We have to be careful with (the spread of) this variant of Omicron. It is spreading faster. I will ask anyone who has returned to the country and tested positive to stay in isolation,” the chief minister said. . West Bengal reported 414 new cases on Monday, including 145 in Calcutta, but has so far reported only one positive Omicron case. Two other suspected cases from Sweden and the UK are currently being tested for the new, fast-spreading variant. Banerjee warned that “when around 300 people fly in a flight and a few are infected, a chain of infections can occur.”
The state, which has a large Christian population of over 7 lakh, comprising both Bengali Christians and Anglo-Indians, with members of all communities participating in the Christmas and New Year festivities, generally sees a large number of visitors arrive in the city during this period. .
The chief minister also cited the Vedas, Hindu religious texts, to ask people of all faiths to stand united. “We must stay united. We love all religions, castes, communities and beliefs … We must remember that our country will only be strong if our unity is strong,” she said. Banerjee, alluding to the rise of intolerance in parts of the country, also said there were “a lot of tensions” and “political pollution” beset India. Allen Park and Park Street as well as many other parts of Kolkata typically display Christmas decorations, lighting, and Nativity performances in public places, attracting popular participation in the festivities.
While encouraging the festivities, the state government has also posted police officers at various locations to deter overcrowding and enforce Covid regulations. Banerjee has asked the state’s tourism department to help replicate these popular festivities in other areas with historic churches such as Chandanagar, a former French colony with Latin architecture, Bandel, which boasts of a 16th century church and Krishnanagar which has a mid 19th century Roman Catholic church which is considered a tourist attraction.
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