West Bengal enters lockdown mode as Covid-19 cases surge
The West Bengal government imposed several restrictions for the next 15 days beginning Sunday, entering a near-lockdown phase, to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the state.
While all public transport – trains, buses and Kolkata Metro -- have been shut down, government and private offices closed, markets and retail shops selling grocery have been allowed to remain open from 7 am till 10 am, and emergency services have also been permitted.
All outdoor activities at night including movement of people and vehicles between 9 pm and 5 am have been prohibited, except for health services, law and order and essential commodities.
“Madhyamik (class X board exams) and Higher Secondary (Class XII board exams) scheduled in June this year are also being postponed. No exams would be held in June as schools and colleges are closed. Notification for the new schedule would be issued in due time,” said a senior state government official.
Schools, colleges and universities have already been shut in the state since April 20.
Sweetmeat shops have been allowed to remain open from 10 am to 5 pm, jewellery shops may remain open from 12 noon to 3 pm. E-commerce and home delivery of all commodities have been allowed.
Earlier this month, the state government had shut down local trains, while allowing buses, trams and Kolkata Metro to run with 50% capacity. Government and private organisations were allowed to run with half the workforce. RT-PCR negative test reports have been made mandatory for anyone trying to enter Bengal.
The daily count of Covid-19 cases has shot up exponentially in West Bengal since March this year. Experts have blamed it on the rampant violations of Covid-19 protocols at the countless election rallies held in the run-up to the assembly elections that ended on April 29.
On May 13, the state registered 20,846 new cases up from 812 fresh cases reported on March 27, when the eight phase assembly polls began. The state now has 131,792 active cases. At least 136 people have died in the last 24 hours, according to official data.
Movement of private vehicles, taxis and auto-rickshaws will be prohibited except to and from hospitals, vaccination centres, diagnostic centres and the airport
Operations in tea gardens have been allowed with 50% strength, jute mills have been allowed to run with 30% strength.
Marriage functions have been allowed but with a cap of 50 people, while funeral rituals may be held with a maximum of 20 people.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who assumed charge for the third consecutive time on May 5, had ruled out imposing a total lockdown. Banerjee’s younger brother Ashim Banerjee died on Saturday morning after being detected with Covid-19 last month. He was admitted at a private hospital in Kolkata.
Balram Bhargava, head of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), had said in a recent interview that lockdown restrictions should remain in place in all districts where the rate of infection is above 10% of those tested. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan had flagged the issue that some districts in the state were registering 40% positivity rate for the Covid-19 infection.