West Bengal announces lockdown in major areas; COVID-19 cases rises to 7

Kolkata, Mar 22 (PTI) Kolkata and several areas across West Bengal will be put under lockdown from 5 pm on Monday till March 27 in view of the coronavirus outbreak, even as three more persons tested positive, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state to seven, officials said.

The state also witnessed a near-total shut down as people chose to stay indoors following the Janata curfew call given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to check the spread of novel coronavirus.

According to a notification issued on Sunday evening, Kolkata, all other urban areas and some of the rural areas of the state will be put under lockdown from 5 pm on Monday till March 27.

Official sources said the decision was taken after consultation with the central government.

The lockdown will apply to areas under the jurisdiction of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, all municipal towns in North 24 Parganas district besides Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, West Burdwan, North Dinajpur and Howrah districts.

Apart from other urban areas of the state, Siliguri, Darjeeling and Kurseong towns in North Bengal will also be locked down.

'No public transport services, including operation of taxis and autorickshaws, will be permitted. The exception will include transports of all kinds to and from hospitals, airports and goods carrier carrying food and essential commodities,' the notification said.

All shops, commercial establishments, offices, factories and workshops will down their shutters, it added.

The notification asked people to stay at homes and come out only for basic services while strictly following the social distancing guidelines and prohibited congregation of more than seven people in public places.

Any person found violating these restrictions shall be deemed to have committed a punishable offence, it added.

Shops selling foodgrains, groceries, vegetable, fruits, meat, fish, bread and milk, medical services, home delivery, petrol pumps, pharmacies, the IT sector, banks and ATMs, and the media have been exempted from the purview of the lockdown.

It also made mandatory for those returning from abroad to go on home quarantine for two weeks.

The West Bengal government also stopped inter-state bus services till March 31 in wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, the state reported three new coronavirus positive cases. The three new positive cases include the parents and a maid working at the residence of a 22-year-old youth with a travel history to the UK. The youth had tested positive two days ago.

'After the youth was tested positive on March 20, we had sent his father, mother and a maid on quarantine and conducted tests. The test results are positive. They have been kept in an isolation ward at Beleghata ID hospital,' a senior health official said.

The state now has seven confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of which three have travel history to the UK and Scotland. The fourth patient has no travel history, but is suspected to have come in contact with someone who had recently returned from abroad.

The fourth patient is 57-years-old and his condition is critical. He has been put on a ventilator.

Meanwhile, there was total shut-down in the state as people remained indoors during the Janata curfew hours.

Private vehicles were off the roads, and all markets and business establishments were shut in the city and districts.

Major railway stations and airports in the state also wore a deserted look as people avoided venturing out.

At 5 pm, thousands of citizens across the state, came out in their balconies, doorways and windows to clap and clang utensils as a gesture to thank the people in essential services for working during the COVID-19 outbreak, as requested by the prime minister.

A total of 1,324 passengers have been enlisted for observation in the state, while 1,312 people are kept under home surveillance, a bulletin of the state health department said on Sunday.

As many as 21 passengers were sent to isolation wards in different hospitals, it added.

Meanwhile, two special trains arrived at Howrah station carrying more than 1,000 passengers from Mumbai and Pune. They were screened by medical officers of the state government at the station.