The West Bengal government today extended the existing Covid related restrictions till 30 August while relaxing the night restrictions by two hours though chief minister Mamata Banerjee ruled out resuming local trains without vaccinating 50 per cent of people of the districts in the wake of apprehensions of the third Covid wave outbreak.
Miss Banerjee clarified that local trains can be started only after 50 per cent of the population in the city-adjoining districts of North and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Howrah and Hooghly are vaccinated. “We have vaccinated 75 per cent of the urban population and are trying hard to increase vaccination in the rural areas but are unable to do so due to shortage of doses. People who have to come to the city from the adjoining districts for work are facing difficulty in absence of local trains. But we cannot start local train services at the moment as life is more precious.
There is an adequate number of buses, autos and metros for the convenience of commuters. Experts have predicted that the third Covid wave may hit in September so we don’t want to take any chances. Local trains can be started only after we manage to vaccinate 50 per cent of the population in the districts,” said Miss Banerjee. There will be a complete restriction on all outdoor activities including the movement of people and vehicles from 11 pm to 5 am instead of 9 pm to 5 am.
Miss Banerjee also announced the reopening of theatres with a 50 per cent seating capacity. The cinema halls and indoor government programmes have already been allowed with a 50 per cent audience. The educational institutes will, however, remain closed though Miss Banerjee had earlier announced that the state government was considering reopening schools and colleges after the Durga Puja vacations.
There has been no change in the timings of shops and markets while gyms and salons have been allowed to open with 50 per cent strength. Restaurants, hotels, malls and clubs will continue to remain open with 50 per cent capacity at a time as per usual operational hours but not beyond 8 p.m.
The existing guidelines will continue for government and private offices allowing not more than 50 per cent of the total strength as per normal working hours. The number of people allowed to attend social gatherings like weddings has remained capped at 50. The chief minister said that the Covid situation was under control in West Bengal with daily cases ranging between 600 to 800 while the positivity rate was 1.5 per cent. The government was testing 47,000 samples per day while the discharge and death rates were 98.15 and 1.19 per cent respectively. The current Covid bed occupancy was 3.79 per cent, she said.
She however complained that the state was not receiving an adequate number of vaccines as a result of which the vaccination process was getting slowed down. The state has vaccinated 3.32 crore of the population instead of 14 crores. Of the total vaccinated population, 2.39 crore have been administered the first dose and the remaining the second dose.
The government is inoculating 3.5 to 4 lakh people per day despite the capability of vaccinating a much higher number of people. West Bengal stands out to be the best in the country in terms of vaccination, she added.
Meanwhile, the state government today ordered the premature release of 73 life convicts including 66 men aged above 60 years and seven women aged above 55 years to decongest the correctional homes in view of the Covid situation. On 2 August, 63 life convicts were released.