In changed protocol, locals may control containment zones in Bengal

Kolkata, Jun 3 (PTI) As the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise in West Bengal with the return of migrants and as economic activities are resuming, the state government is planning to change the protocol of declaring a containment zone, and involve local people in policing an area, an official said on Wednesday.

The authorities will now identify a building with a COVID-19 patient and declare it a containment zone and the area around it a buffer zone, deviating from the earlier practice of marking such a building and a portion of the roads surrounding it as an affected area, he said.

A containment zone is called an 'affected area' in West Bengal and the roads around it are different 'buffer zones'.

The number of affected areas across West Bengal was around 718 last week and it went up to 864 on Tuesday, according to the data on the state government's 'Egiye Bangla' website.

A huge jump was also witnessed in the number of buffer zones. It was 350 three days back but jumped nearly to 850 during the same period, the website added.

'The spike was noticed in almost all the districts, particularly in Birbhum, Cooch Behar, Nadia, Uttar Dinajpur and Malda, where most of the migrant labourers have returned. They are still coming and the number of COVID-19 cases will possibly rise,' the senior Health Department official told PTI.

As the administration is planning to slowly ease the lockdown norms, the requirement of streamlining the affected areas has surfaced, he said.

'In a densely populated area like slums and their surrounding areas, the entire locality, and not just a building, may be declared a containment zone,' the official said.

The Health Department, following the suggestion of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is also considering to use local people in maintaining 'dos and don'ts' in the affected areas.

'We have seen that in many areas in Kolkata and other districts, local people have put up barricades to prevent anyone from entering or exiting the containment zones. Since the outbreak started, police have been maintaining these zones and, in some cases, locals have.

'Now, we are trying to find out whether local people can be given the entire responsibility of policing these areas,' the official said.

So far, over 5 lakh migrant labourers from other states have returned and the state government has made it mandatory for all those coming from 'hotspot' states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh to undergo tests.

West Bengal has reported 6,168 confirmed coronavirus cases so far. The number of active cases is 3,423 while 263 patients have died. PTI SCH NN IJT