West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said she would take a final decision on the extension of the lockdown after her meeting -- along with other chief ministers -- with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.
At an interaction with members of several chambers of commerce and industries, Ms Banerjee was talking about how to function without breaking the lockdown, when she said, "We have to see how we can function without breaking the lockdown, because lockdown cannot be lifted because the disease is increasing every day. Next two to three weeks will be very crucial. We are having to accept, what to do? I know we are all suffocating but what to do? Nobody likes the situation, we are also very unhappy. We are not supporting this but we have no option. There is nothing bigger than human life."
At the same time, however, Ms Banerjee announced several relaxations of the lockdown in some sectors.
Tea gardens in North Bengal are to re-open partially. Tea plucking will resume, but with only 15 per cent of the workers plucking tea at a time. And, at tea processing factories, only 50 per cent of the workforce can work at a time. All workers would work but in rotation.
To ease response to emergencies, taxi stands will be set up in Kolkata with an assigned phone number. People who need a taxi can call and get one for emergencies.
The taxi service can also be used by people working at home but needing to reach deliverables to official destinations.
Ms Banerjee has already green-signalled the reopening of flower markets, the wholesale of beetle leaves and the manufacture of bidis. All three occupations provide livelihoods to large populations in the state.
So while stressing the need for a continued lockdown, Ms Banerjee's decision on relaxations has sent mixed signals. Her final decision on lockdown extension will emerge only after her meeting with the PM on Saturday.