The West Bengal government today extended the lockdown in the state by two weeks, till June 30, but announced several relaxations in curbs imposed to control the spike in Covid cases during the second wave, a part of which coincided with the eight-phase Assembly elections.
The decision came following a steady decline in daily Covid counts and active cases. The state, which was reporting about 20,000 cases daily in mid-May, recorded 3,984 cases yesterday. The active case count in the state is now 17,651.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said that the Covid positivity rate, which had climbed to 32 per cent during the elections, is now around 5 per cent. She added that nearly 2 crore people in the state have received their vaccine shots.
Easing the restrictions, the state government has now allowed factories and other production units to resume operations with 50 per cent staff strength. The staff members attending work should have received their Covid vaccines and protocols such as wearing of masks and physical distancing should be followed. The government has also given a go-ahead to restaurants and bars to resume dine-in services between noon and 8 pm with 50 per cent seating capacity.
According to the order issued by Chief Secretary H K Dwivedi, the operation of local trains, metro rail and inland water transport remains suspended except for special trains transporting personnel attached to emergency services. The movement of private vehicles, taxis and auto-rickshaws, too, remains prohibited unless they are on their way to hospitals or airports. Public movement and all other outdoor activities, other than those associated with emergency services, would not be allowed between 9 pm and 5 am.
As per the new guidelines, government offices can function from June 16 at 25 per cent staff capacity and authorities must make transport arrangements for the staff. Private offices have been allowed to operate with 25 per cent attendance between 10 am and 4 pm. Employers shall arrange transport for the staff members and obtain e-passes from the district administration, say the guidelines.
Parks can now open from 6 am to 9 am for morning walkers, but only those who received two doses of the vaccine will be allowed in.
Retail shops selling daily needs and bazaars and 'haats' are now allowed to operate from 7 am to 11 am, instead of the current 7 to 10 am cut off.
Other shops can open from 11 am to 6 pm, as can shops in malls where there is a 25 per cent limit on staff strength. Only 30 per cent customers will be allowed inside a mall at a time.
The order says that games and sports may resume in stadiums and clubs without the presence of spectators but social and academic meetings are a no no and beauty parlours and spas will remain shut.
A maximum of 50 guests will be allowed at wedding ceremonies and not more than 20 people can attend a funeral. Banks will open between 10 am and 2 pm.
Responding to a question on the evaluation process after Class X and Class XII board exams were cancelled in view of the pandemic, the Chief Minister said the respective boards will take a decision in the matter.