The West Bengal government today announced a nearcomplete lockdown in the state from Sunday till 30 May to contain the spread of Covid in Bengal, with all offices, industries and the transport sector, including Metro services, to be shut. Only emergency services and home delivery will be allowed, while retail shops selling essential items can stay open from 7 a.m to 10 a.m.

The measures were imposed even as the state registered 19,511 fresh Covid cases and 144 deaths today, bringing the total case count to 11,14,313 and death toll to 13,137. There are 1,31,948 active cases. Kolkata recorded 3,951 cases and 30 deaths while North 24 Parganas recorded 4,279 fresh cases and 35 deaths in the last 24 hours.

On Friday, the state registered 20,846 fresh Covid cases, its highest daily count since the pandemic began, along with 136 fatalities. “We are taking some strict measures to contain the pandemic and to ensure the health of the people, starting 6 a.m. tomorrow till 6 p.m. on 30 May. We are forced to impose these restrictions. There is now an unprecedented situation in the state where the scarcity of oxygen and other medicines is increasing.

To control the patient load in hospitals, we are imposing strict conditions on the movement of transport and other sectors for two weeks,” said state chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay at a Press meet in Nabanna. The state government did not officially call the restrictions a lockdown, but nearly all services, including the education sector, and private and public offices, will be closed.

Movement of people and vehicles will be strictly prohibited between 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. except emergency services.The Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations that are scheduled to be held in June have been postponed and the new dates would be notified soon. All government and private offices, shopping complexes, malls, bars, sports complexes, pubs and wine shops and beauty parlours will remain closed, Mr Bandyopadhyay said.

Retail shops and bazaars relating to vegetables, fruits, groceries, milk, bread, meat and eggs will be allowed to remain open between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Interestingly, sweetmeat vendors will be allowed to function from 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. while jewellery and saree shops can stay open from 12 to 3 p.m.

Pharmacies and optical stores can remain open as per their regular working hours. Similarly, petrol pumps will stay open and banks will function between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. though ATMs will remain operational. Movement of private vehicles, taxis, buses, metro rail, suburban trains will also be disallowed during the 15day period. However, vehicles going to and from hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic centres, clinics, vaccination centres, airports, terminal points, media houses and movement relating to essential or exempted goods and services will be allowed.

“Essential services like milk, water, medicine, electricity, fire, law and order and media will not come under the purview of the restrictions,” Mr Bandyopadhyay added. E-commerce and home delivery services will be allowed, he added. While industries will be closed, tea gardens will be allowed to function but only at 50 per cent strength and jute mills with 30 per cent strength. Industries relating to medical supplies, Covid protective supplies, health and hygiene, oxygen and oxygen cylinders have been exempted.

“All types of gatherings ~ religious, political and cultural ~ will be strictly prohibited,” said Mr Bandopadhyay. “No more than 50 people will be allowed at wedding functions and a gathering of a maximum of 20 people at funerals,” he said. Parks, zoos, sanctuaries shall remain closed except for maintenance services.

“Wearing of masks, maintenance of physical distancing and hygiene protocols must be followed at all times. District administration, police commissionerates and local authorities shall ensure strict compliance of the directives. Any violation of the restriction measures will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provisions of Disaster Management Act, 2005 and under IPC,” Mr Bandopadhyay said.