Siliguri (West Bengal) [India], April 16 (ANI): Amid a record surge of COVID-19 infections across the country, a group of people, constituting mostly e-rickshaw drivers, launched an awareness campaign on Friday in West Bengal's Siliguri ahead of the fifth phase of state assembly elections.
Sporting PPE kits, the group urged voters to keep following COVID-19 safety protocols as they exercise their franchise on Saturday.
Speaking to ANI, Munmun Sarkar, a social worker, said: "Most of us drive e-rickshaws along with doing social work. Tomorrow is voting day. Last time, when COVID came, everyone was maintaining protocols. But now, people are not taking it seriously. This situation is far worse than that of the previous wave. That is why we are telling people to wear masks, maintain social distancing and use sanitisers during voting."
Sarkar further said that the group wears PPE kits to remind people that the COVID-19 pandemic has not ended and is still here.
"The purpose of wearing PPE kits is to create awareness among people. Earlier, cases were low, people were scared. But today, cases have increased several times yet people are not aware and are not scared. People should be responsible for their own safety," said Pooja Dutta, an e-rickshaw driver, adding that the situation in Siliguri itself was very bad.
Meanwhile, several people have expressed concern over the rise of COVID-19 cases in West Bengal.
Earlier in the day Rupak Barua, CEO, AMRI Hospital, Kolkata, told ANI: "The second wave of COVID-19 is very dangerous. Last year, the spread of the disease was slow but the spike this year is rapid. We didn't get time to handle this surge. We have to plan our movement to handle this situation."
"Now, we are witnessing more than 6,000 cases every day in West Bengal. Since January, people have become casual towards COVID-19, many rallies are being held daily and these have contributed to the surge in cases. We are trying our best to manage the situation," he added.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar also said that the situation in the state is worrisome and called on the people to follow safety protocols.
Speaking to ANI, Dhankhar said, "The situation is worrisome in terms of the second wave of COVID-19. On April 14, the Vice-President and Prime Minister interacted with all the states of the country in a video conference, and the full details of the situation were described by the Health Secretary. In the presentation he gave, it was clear where was our infrastructure stood."
West Bengal reported 6,910 new COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths in the last 24 hours
According to the state health bulletin, the total count of cases has reached 6,43,795. The number of active cases in the state stands at 41,047. With 26 more deaths, the toll in West Bengal has reached 10,506.
The first four phases were held on March 27, April 1, April 6 and April 10 respectively. The sixth phase of the state assembly polls is scheduled for April 22. The counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)