Mamata announces slew of lockdown relaxations

Kolkata, May 18 (PTI) Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced a slew of lockdown relaxations and said her government would not impose night curfew in West Bengal as proposed by the Centre.

Extending the coronavirus lockdown till May 31, Banerjee said street vendors, salon and parlour owners would be allowed to reopen the shops from May 27.

Apart from 105 trains that the state has already requisitioned, the chief minister said her government would request the Railways for 120 more Shramik Special trains in the next few days to bring back migrant workers.

'The lockdown will continue till May 31. We will not officially declare night curfew because people are already under a lot of stress.

'We don't want to increase their sufferings. But we will request people not to venture out of their homes between 7 pm and 7 am, or else, the police would take action,' she said.

There would be a few more relaxations, Banerjee said.

'The home secretary, municipality secretaries and police will come up with a plan before May 27 regarding reopening of hawkers' markets on the odd-even basis,' she said. 'Social distancing, masks, gloves are compulsory and all the markets will be sanitized.' The chief minister said the containment zones would be divided into three zones -- affected zone, buffer zone and clean zone. While most restrictions will be placed in the affected zones, there will be some relaxations in the buffer zones and complete relaxation in clean zones.

'All big stores in the state will be allowed to open from May 21 in non-containment zones. Restaurants will continue to remain closed,' she said.

The state government allowed private offices to function with 50-percent workforce.

On public transport service, she said: 'Inter-district bus services will start on May 21 (Thursday). Autorickshaws can also resume operations from May 27, but with no more than two passengers.' The Trinamool Congress supremo criticised the BJP for allegedly doing cheap politics over the migrant labourers' issue and claimed that the states ruled by the saffron party had the worst track record in tackling the migrants' crisis.

'Don't politicise the issue. I request all states to take care of our people as we are taking care of theirs who are stranded in our state,' she said.

'We want to bring back everyone but cannot do it in a single day. We have a plan in place, let us execute it. We have already requested for 105 trains. Within the next two-three days, we will ask for 120 more trains,' Banerjee added.

Reaching out to the migrant workers returning to the state during the lockdown, Banerjee had on Saturday announced that her government would bear the entire cost of their journey by special trains.

Around 2.5-3 lakh migrants had already returned to Bengal from outside, she said. Sporting activities, without any gathering, will also be allowed, the chief minister added. PTI PNT NN HMB