Mumbai: Not just crackers, city needs to watch out for crowding too
Health experts say a spike in COVID cases in the MMR region post Diwali will be disastrous and a challenging situation for the medical fraternity
With the BMC banning bursting of firecrackers in the city, health experts feel that the step won't serve the purpose unless restrictions are imposed across the state. Another major point of concern for them is the overcrowding of markets for Diwali shopping and flouting of social distancing norms in the process. They are of the opinion that a spike in COVID-19 cases in MMR would be disastrous and a challenging situation for the medical community.
The civic body has imposed a ban on bursting firecrackers until November 30, though few relaxations have been given for November 14. It has also asked people to not use hand sanitizers before lighting the sparklers and diyas as they are flammable. The corporation has restricted large clubs in the city from using firecrackers. Mid-day had earlier highlighted the adverse impacts of firecrackers on the pandemic through an article dated October 30.
Speaking to mid-day, Dr Subhash Hira, professor of Global Health at the University of Washington-Seattle, USA and former health specialist of the World Bank HQ and WHO, and current health advisor to several UN, Indian and African health agencies, said, "Scientific estimates proved true for Delhi where fresh COVID-19 cases almost doubled yesterday. A similar upward trend is observed in Mumbai (up from 800-plus cases each day towards the end of October) to 998 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. While Mumbai winter is milder and could be less damaging, the ban on firecrackers will help improve air quality." Dr Hira further added, "As Diwali celebrations will peak in a few days, an improved surveillance of firecracker bursting using drones and police patrolling in sensitive areas will help to avoid high COVID numbers."
Dr Ketan Vagholkar, professor of surgery, DY Patil Medical College said, "Due to huge discounts being offered by various retail outlets, people are flocking to these places. In the over-enthusiasm and excitement, they are forgetting all precautionary measures, including wearing masks. This can have a dangerous effect and can lead to a sudden surge in cases. Banning of firecrackers is a positive step and will surely reduce pollution levels in the city. But citizens should use masks, avoid crowded places as far as possible and maintain social distance. This also applies to those flocking to restaurants. It is observed that people are not following precautionary measures while eating at restaurants and roadside eateries."
People burst firecrackers on the occasion of Bhaubeej at Gymkhana lane opposite Marine Drive last year. FILE PIC
"The firecracker ban should be applied to the entire state to control pollution levels, especially in Mumbai and MMR regions, which has seen intermittent spike of COVID-19 cases in the last couple of days," he added.
'Can't be forcefully imposed'
Dr Wiqar Shaikh, senior allergy and asthma specialist said, "Air pollution has reached alarming levels in North India, especially caused by a drop in temperature as well as an increase in smog due to stubble burning. Indeed, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi is more than 500 and falls in a very severe category. All this has resulted in a spike of COVID-19 cases. A viral pandemic is documented to have spikes and troughs, however, the fact that AQI is very severe in Delhi, is a matter of serious concern and is the root cause of the increase in cases." Dr Shaikh added, "The decision of the Delhi government to ban firecrackers and impose a penalty of Rs 1 lakh against violators is a welcome move and should help in bringing down the pollution level to a certain extent and thereby provide some relief from COVID-19 cases and fatalities."
He further said, "Similar restrictions should be imposed across Maharashtra as the entire state is recuperating from COVID-19 and bursting of firecrackers will continue to have similar ramifications. Also, parents should discourage kids from bursting firecrackers. The main thing is that these directives cannot be implemented by force, unless the public at large takes a conscious decision to not use firecrackers. These restrictions should also be followed by politicians. They should refrain from distributing free firecrackers to slum and chawl residents."
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