Kolkata, Apr 29 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday hinted that the ongoing lockdown would continue in the state, saying experts and doctors are of the opinion that the restrictions imposed to check the spread of COVID-19 should remain in force till the end of May.
She, however, announced a few relaxations, in accordance with the orders of the central government, such as opening stand-alone shops dealing in non-essential items and resuming bus and taxi services in green zones, following all precautionary and social distancing measures.
Banerjee also said her government has made arrangements to bring back 2,500-3,000 students hailing from the state who are stranded in the coaching hub of Kota in Rajasthan and they are likely to reach in three days.
She added the students boarded buses for West Bengal this evening.
'Nobody can say when this crisis will end. Most of the countries have already announced the lockdown till the end of May and the first week of June. Our experts and doctors believe that the restrictions regarding COVID-19 should continue till the end of May,' she said.
The graph of infection might go down after that but it might again show an upward trend during the rainy season in July and August, she said.
'We had announced the lockdown before the Centre did it. Till now the situation has not improved, so it is not possible to revert everything to normal. So, for a few more days, we have to follow the restrictions and continue with the lockdown. It may be 100 per cent in some areas or partial in other areas. My appeal to all of you not to venture out of their homes now,' she said.
Banerjee announced the lockdown in the state from March 23 evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed it across the country from March 25 to break the chain of coronavirus transmission and it was scheduled to be lifted on April 15. The 21-day measure was later extended for 19 more days till May 3.
The chief minister said that from May 4, restrictions will be eased in green and orange zones where stand-alone shops of non-essential items will be opened.
'But there will be no relaxation for containment areas. The relaxation applies only to stand-alone shops and home delivery of non-essential items, not for market complexes or shopping malls,' she said.
Stand-alone shops selling electronics goods, stationery items, books, paints, hardware products, laundry, tea, and paan will be allowed to open in green and orange zones, she said.
'Police will survey which shops will be opened. Hawkers' markets and shops on footpath won't be opened. Factories can open in green zones but they need to abide by all protocols,' she said.
'We are yet to get clarifications from the Centre regarding its order last week on opening of shops in non-containment zones. Once we get that, we would take steps about extending the relaxation in some other areas,' she added.
Buses will also ply in green zones but will not carry more than 20 passengers at a time, she said adding that the vehicle should be sterilized at regular intervals.
'Taxis also can operate in green zones, but with not more than three passengers,' Banerjee said.
She said the Economic Task Force has prepared a six-month economic rehabilitation plan.
The TMC supremo also alleged that the BJP was indulging in politics at the time of this crisis.
'There are some people who are trying to spread rumours that there are no beds in hospitals of Kolkata to get admitted. There are still 790 beds ready for COVID-19 patients in Kolkata. We have moved from one COVID lab to 14 labs. And the BJP is busy doing politics to malign us. This is not the time for politics,' she said.
'The BJP is making a hue and cry over the attack on policemen in Howrah. What about assault on policemen in BJP-ruled states,' she asked.
A mob attacked policemen who were enforcing lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus at Tikiapara in Howrah district, a red zone, on Tuesday.
'What happened in Tikiapara was wrong, it should not have happened and I have asked the police to take stern action. In Bengal, we treat everyone equally irrespective of their caste or religion. But those who are doing politics should come down on the road, clean the roads, stand beside the COVID-19 patients,' she said.
Referring to the attacks on police personnel in BJP-governed Uttar Pradesh, she threatened to 'open the Pandora's Box, if the saffron camp continues to needle the Bengal government'. PTI PNT NN ZMN