Kolkata, October 15: The Metro Railway is contemplating not to run the usual all-night services during the Durga Puja days in view of an apprehended rise in the COVID-19 pandemic owing to a surge in movement of people during the festive days, an official said here on Wednesday. Epidemiologists have warned of an exponential increase in the number of COVID cases in the city and also in other parts of the state following the Durga Puja, the largest festival in West Bengal, owing to pandal hopping and mingling of people.

"We are contemplating not to run all-night services this year during Durga Puja days owing to the COVID pandemic situation and the apprehension of an increase in the number of cases," Metro spokesperson Indrani Banerjee said. She said that the Metro Railway is thinking in this line to play its part in not contributing to an increase in the number of COVID cases in the city. Kolkata Malls Focus on Safety Protocols Amid COVID-19 Pandemic to Tackle Increasing Footfalls Ahead of Durga Pujo.

"Since Metro Railway is one of the most preferred modes of transportation of revellers to reach destinations fast and easily, it will be helpful to prevent such movement as far as possible by not running the trains throughout the night during the puja days, as is the usual practice every year," Banerjee said.

She, however, said that a final decision is yet to be taken by the Metro authorities on the matter.

The Metro Railway runs services up to 4 am during the Durga Puja days till Nabami and till past midnight on Dashami or Dussehra every year, with lakhs of people using the services to reach their destination conveniently since the roads are usually choc-a-bloc owing to heavy traffic and restrictions around major pandals across the city.

Doctors have warned of a surge in COVID cases in the state and particularly in Kolkata during and after the festive season if social distancing protocols are not strictly maintained. West Bengal has already seen an increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 infection for the last several days and many doctors are attributing this to people thronging markets and shopping malls to buy new apparels and other materials for the festive season.

In 2019, the Kolkata Metro had set a record of serving the maximum number of passengers in a single day in its history, carrying 9.22 lakh commuters on October 3 on 'Panchami' at the beginning of the festival that year.

It carried 49.5 lakh commuters during the Durga Puja days from Chaturthi to Navami last year.

The city Metro had registered 9.07 lakh passenger movement on October 15 during the Durga Puja in 2018, recording the second-highest ever footfall in a single day in its history.