The first of Bengal's twice-weekly 24-hour lock down begins on Thursday, a day after the state logged the highest number of new cases at 2,291 and the highest number of deaths at 39 in a span of 24 hours. From all indications, the lockdown will be implemented more rigorously than in the recent past. Everything will be shut, except essential services. Banks, which have already been told to stay shut on weekends, will also be closed on Thursday.
That is not all. Several municipal townships across the state - from Siliguri and Cooch Behar in the north to Bongaon and Barrackpore in south Bengal -- announced lockdowns of their own, most till July 31. At Baranagar, just north of Kolkata, where a 21-hour lockdown from 11 am to 6 am began on Wednesday, the shutdown will continue till further notice. Violators will be liable to prosecution.
Since Wednesday morning, police were out in public places announcing the lockdown. Police are expected to be out on the streets on Thursday to enforce it. Saturday will see the next lockdown, July 29, the third one. Dates for lockdowns in August will be announced later.
The twice-weekly lockdown decision is possibly based on a study by scientists at IISc Bangalore which says one or two day lockdown per week with complete compliance along with adequate social distancing during other days is effective to reduce the spread.
Five days ago, chief secretary Rajiva Sinha had said lockdowns were unlikely in future, certainly not complete ones. On Monday, home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay announced the twice-weekly lockdowns. But the municipality-specific lockdowns signal that the government is banking on the shutdowns to halt growing numbers of new cases of COVID-19 and deaths.
In North 24 Parganas, which has the highest number of Covid cases and deaths after Kolkata, lockdowns have been announced in Barasat town from July 25 to 31.
Chairperson of the board of municipal administration Sunil Mukherjee confirmed that he himself recovered from COVID-19 before resuming duties. He had urged residents not to spread panic but follow lockdown norms. Even opposition Left and BJP members agreed to the lockdown.
Baranagar, also in North 24 Parganas, is indefinitely lockdown already. Also shutting down for 24 hours a day from Thursday till July 31 is Barrackpore, Naihati, Gobordanga, Bongaon and Madhyamgram. An ongoing lockdown in Ashoknagar and Habra municipal areas ends on Sunday and likely to be extended till 31st.
35 wards in Burdwan town, headquarter of the Burdwan East district, is on a week's lockdown from today. Asansol in West Burdwan is on a 19-hour lockdown till further notice from 1 pm to 8 am.
In North Bengal, an ongoing lockdown that ends on Wednesday is being extended for another seven days in Siliguri in Darjeeling district and in Jalpaiguri town. In Cooch Behar district, Cooch Behar town and Dinhata are starting a 7-day, 21-hour lockdown from 10 am to 7 am.