West Bengal government orders near-complete lockdown amid increase in COVID-19 infection numbers

Published : May 15, 2021 22:47 IST

People wait at the bus station in Kolkata to buy tickets to return home after the government announced a 15-day lockdown, on May 15. Photo: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP

 

The Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal announced a near-complete lockdown in the State for two weeks beginning 6 a.m. on May 16 to 6 p.m. on May 30 with the COVID-19 situation worsening with every passing day. By an official order issued on May 15 by Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, all educational and academic institutions, as well as government offices and private establishments, except those relating to emergency and essential services such as health care, power, drinking water supply, courts, telecom, Internet, fire services, funeral services, and print and electronic media will remain closed from May 16 until May 30.

Movement of metro, bus, taxis, autorickshaws, private vehicles has been prohibited, except those going to and from medical establishments, vaccination centres, airport and other centres providing essential services. Petrol pumps and automobile repair shops, however, will remain open. In an earlier order, the government had suspended the movement of local trains.

In its latest order the government said “the additional restriction measures to cut down mobility of people and limiting human contact through assembly and congregation is essential to cut the transmission chain of virus and to contain the pandemic”. Retail outlets, bazaars, hats relating to vegetables, fruits, groceries, milk, bread, meat and eggs will remain open from 7 a.m. till 10 a.m.; sweetmeat shops will be allowed to remain open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m; and jewellery and sari shops can remain open from 12 noon till 3 p.m. Medical stores and optical shops will remain open as per usual working hours, and e-commerce and home delivery of all commodities will continue. Marriage functions can take place with not more than 50 people at a time, and not more than 20 people can attend funeral rituals.

Earlier, the government had ordered the closure of all shopping complexes, malls, beauty parlours, cinema halls, restaurants and bars, sports complexes, gyms, spas and swimming pools and prohibited “social/cultural/academic/entertainment related gatherings and congregations”. According to the new Order, “all outdoor activities, including movement of people and vehicles shall be further strictly prohibited between 9 pm to 5 am, except for health services, law and order, essential commodities including agricultural produce and other emergency services.”

All industries and manufacturing units will also remain closed except those relating to medical and COVID-related supplies and essential food commodities and beverages, including milk, poultry, fish and meat. Tea gardens will be allowed to function with 50 per cent of the total strength of each shift, and jute factories will be allowed with 30 per cent of the total strength of each shift. Banks and financial institutions will remain open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On May 15, the new COVID cases came down a little from 20,846 the previous day, to 19,511. However, the number of deaths increased from 136 on May 14 to 144 on May 15. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s younger brother Ashim Banerjee passed away reportedly from COVID-related complications.

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