With lakhs of people from Covid-19 hotspots like Mumbai and Thane set to visit Konkan for Ganesh Chaturthi, the fear of a flood of potentially infected city folks arriving in the villages of Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg has caused consternations among local residents.
Ratnagiri SP Pravin Mundhe on Saturday held a Facebook Live session to talk to local residents. “Every year, people from Mumbai and other cities return to their villages and the festival is celebrated in harmony. This year, too, no discrimination should be made between local residents and those coming from the cities. We need to remember that we are in the middle of a pandemic and should take all precautions at individual and community levels,” he told the residents.
In Ratnagiri, many villages had initially decided on a 14-day quarantine for those wishing to come for the festival, which will commence on August 22. The 14-day deadline has now been reduced to 10 days with the district administration stating that people with valid e-passes can travel to Konkan on or before August 12. Authorities said those traveling in private vehicles without valid e-passes will not be allowed in Ratnagiri even before August 12.
Besides private buses and other vehicles that require an e-pass, the state has arranged for MSRCT buses for those wishing to visit Konkan. Further, a nod has been given for special trains to be arranged for travel from Mumbai.
“Among those taking state transport, those above 55 years of age and with comorbidities are being made to undergo rapid antigen tests. Village-level committees have been tasked with ensuring that quarantine is followed strictly. They also have to ensure that those returning have enough space at home to remain in self-isolation, else they have to be sent to institutional quarantine,” Mundhe said. Rapid antigen tests conducted on 278 people returning to Ratnagiri on Friday were negative, he added.
Further, neither large gatherings nor mass immersions will be permitted. “Only a few families have come from Mumbai till now. They are currently in home quarantine,” said gram sabha member Santosh Rane of Chikni village in Ratnagiri. Deputy sarpanch of Varsoli village in Raigad, Milind Kawale, said that despite all measures, it may be difficult to stop people from coming to Konkan after August 12, unless checks are conducted on the highways. “Unless checkpoints are set up at main highways, many will take a chance and arrive a day before the festival, attend the aarti and leave after two days,” he added.
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