Covid cases dip, masks on Metro premises & trains become rare

City COVID-19 metro Pandemic

We have not eased curbs, says BMRCL 

A crowd of commuters enters Namma Metro stations, many of them with either no masks or their masks hanging on their chins. Sanitizer and thermal screening stations at the entrances remain unused for the most part. Trains are so packed that there is hardly any space to move. But masks are still absent.

With Covid cases declining across the country, people have started to ignore restrictions inside the Metro stations and trains. Even home guards and authorities at stations seem to have eased the restrictions.

Tripthi Kelkar, 22, a law student who travels by the Metro daily, said: “I have noticed that Metro authorities have become more lenient with the Covid restrictions these days. When I run late these days, I skip the thermal screening or sanitizing and they do not ask me to. It is convenient for passengers… since there are few Covid cases.”

Officially, the restrictions haven’t been eased. 

B.L. Yashavanth Chavan, Chief Engineer and Public Relations Officer, BMRCL, said: “Even though Covid cases have come down, Covid-appropriate behaviour has not been eased.”

In September 2020, when Namma Metro resumed operations, BMRCL released an SOP which made thermal screening compulsory at all Metro stations. Several other guidelines were further eased, including a ban on travel by tokens. However, thermal screening, sanitizing of hands and wearing masks is still mandated at Metro stations.

Shwetha N, a home guard at the M.G. Road Metro station informed The Observer: “Usually, there is heavy crowd around office timings, that is from 8  to 10 in the morning and 5 to 8 in the evening. It is difficult to keep track of every commuter.” The Observer noticed at the Thalaghattapura Metro station, on the Green line, that some passengers were allowed to enter trains without masks.

Some states, such as Delhi, Maharashtra, Telangana and West Bengal, have announced a complete relaxation of Covid-19 norms beginning April following a decline in Covid cases. 

Karnataka, on the other hand, has not made any such announcement, meaning that masks and other restrictions are still in force in public spaces.

Utkarsh Choudhary, 24, a college student, has also noticed this change. “Even until early March, there used to be home guards inside the trains and on stations who would fine people if they were not wearing masks. Now that has stopped.”

Asked about this, Shwetha N, a BMRCL home guard, replied that patrolling has only become less frequent at some Metro stations; it has not been stopped completely.

There has been a steady decline in daily Covid cases in India. The country has been reporting less than 2,000 daily cases for a few weeks. However, many countries, such as China and the UK, are witnessing a surge in Covid cases again, suggesting that the pandemic is not over.

Dr Vijayalakshmi, a Covid-19 doctor at the Vydehi Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, expressed  concern about the situation.
“In other states, the decision has been taken after consulting various health experts and committees. However, considering the graph for the past years, Covid waves are really unpredictable, and it is better if precautions are taken, especially after the third wave in January. Cities with higher populations, like Delhi and Bengaluru, are still very vulnerable to Covid-19, and we should be cautious about that. The medical department in the state is prepared if another wave takes  place. However, it is better if we are able to avoid that.”

According to recent reports, Covid cases have shown a rising trend in northern India, including Delhi-NCR, and Maharashtra.  Experts have sounded a warning about an upcoming fourth Covid wave.

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