Bengal has extended the ongoing general coronavirus lockdown in the state to September 20, with "hard lockdowns" scheduled for September 7, 11 and 12. However, in a significant relaxation of existing restrictions to fight the virus, the Mamata Banerjee government has partially eased its July 6 ban on flights to Kolkata from six metros, including Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
Flights from these metros - considered "high prevalence" spots in the past - can land in Kolkata for three days a week from September 1. The three other metros from where flights had been banned are Pune, Nagpur and Ahmedabad.
The Chief Minister also gave the green signal to the railways to run local trains - perhaps one fourth of its existing fleet to start with - and also Metro services with strict social distancing norms in place.
Schools and colleges will remain shut till September 20, the government said.
In July the government had said it would consider opening educational institutions, which have been shut across the country since the nationwide lockdown was first imposed in March, in September.
On the issue of holding JEE and NEET exams amid the Covid crisis, Ms Banerjee said today that states were being "bulldozed" by the centre in the name of cooperative federalism.
"Let us go to the Supreme Court. Let us talk about this matter. This is a mental agony for students," she told a virtual meeting of opposition chief ministers called by herself and interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Bengal has reported over 1.44 lakh COVID-19 cases so far, of which more than 2,900 are deaths linked to the virus and around 27,000 are active cases. On Tuesday the state reported 2,964 new cases in the preceding 24 hours.
A fresh set of central government guidelines on a phased re-start of normal daily life and the economy - dubbed "Unlock 4" - are expected once the current phase "Unlock3" expires at the end of August.
Earlier this week central government sources indicated that metro services could be allowed in the fourth "Unlock" phase, but schools and colleges will likely remain shut. Restrictions on re-opening crowded public places like cinema halls would also remain in place, sources said.
The final call to resume metro services would, however, depend on the state governments, the sources added.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has already made a strong pitch to re-start Metro services in the national capital, calling for the city to be "treated differently" to others.
"Unlock3" guidelines, which were released July 30, ended night curfew and allowed the opening of gyms and yoga institutes that are not in containment zones.
August lockdown dates in Bengal had triggered a strong reaction from the opposition after they were changed thrice in quick succession. A lockdown for August 28 was dropped.
The opposition BJP and CPM attacked the government alleging the dates were tweaked because August 28 is the foundation day of the ruling Trinamool Congress's student's front and, every year, Mamata Banerjee address a rally in the heart of the city on this day.