As part of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the authorities of the city’s major tourist spots, including Victoria Memorial, MP Birla Planetarium and Indian Museum have decided to prohibit the entry of visitors. Victoria Memorial, on an average, receives a footfall of almost one lakh foreign tourists each year. Visitors from other Asian countries and elsewhere flock in large numbers, especially, during December and January.

“Around two-third of the visitors enter the Memorial’s museum,” informed an official of Victoria Memorial. “One-third of the visitors stroll in the gardens outside. At present there are around 12,000 to 13,000 visitors in the museum every day. Also, there is a huge rush for selfies in the museum’s gallery. There are chances of physical contact with foreign visitors whose country of origin is difficult to track. Considering the risk, we sought permission from the board of trustees, and the Union ministry of culture and were granted approval. In the meantime, we will monitor the garden and keep a vigil if there is any gathering anywhere,” he added.

Similarly, Indian Museum, India’s oldest and largest museum, is another attraction which sees a considerable number of foreigners. The authorities of both these iconic spots of Kolkata have decided to debar visitors from their premises. However, the adjoining gardens of the Memorial will remain open for visitors. The MP Birla Planetarium, which is another lure for children and receives around 1200 to 1400 visitors per day, will remain closed indefinitely from tomorrow.

“We have not mentioned any date of re-opening because the situation is changing very fast. One cannot put a date on this,” said Debiprasad Duari, director of the Planetarium. Science City has also been closed for visitors. The rising global death toll and the threat of coronavirus has forced the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to close 10 of its swimming pools across the city.

Authorities of the swimming club at Business Club in New Town have also decided to prohibit public access to the pool. While keeping a strict vigil on the visitors and the animals, the authorities of Alipore Zoo are awaiting instructions from higher authorities. Meanwhile, cinema hall owners have begun sanitisation of their premises. However, hall authorities are keeping the advance booking for tomorrow. A decision on the screening of movies in the city is expected to come tomorrow.

The city police distributed leaflets on ways to stifle the spread of the virus. Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway are carrying out awareness building programme through information, education and communication (IEC) and other initiatives to stop the spread of coronavirus. In various divisions of ER, cauterization of snack tables, seat handles, lavatory door handles, taps, soap container, flushing valve, main door handle, is being conducted.

SER has decided to stop providing curtains and blankets used in AC coaches in all trains. The temperature setting of the AC in SER trains will be increased suitably so that blankets are unnecessary. According to sources, the state transport department is carrying out similar sanitisation of seats in buses and vessels. Following a meeting of the members of the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association, shooting in Tollywood has been stopped till 31 March.

COVID-19: Preparedness on, panic persists

As districts in North Bengal go into a panic mode, following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, foreigners have been barred entry into Bhutan from the ‘Kalikhola Bhutan gate’ under the Kumargrame police station in Alipurduar district. Police were deployed at the gate today to monitor the situation, it is learnt.

However, the movement of nationals of the two countries ~ India and Bhutan ~ has been going on through the main border point in Jaigaon in Alipurduar district, it is learnt. Every person crossing the border there is, however, being screened, it is learnt. The Alipurduar district health department has also set up a thermal screening camp at the Pakriguri area on the Assam-Bengal border in Kumargrame block in Alipurduar.

In Balurghat in South Dinajpur, COVID panic is on the rise, even as masks and hand sanitisers are in short supply in the market and people have been spreading panic through social media. People have accused the district administration of remaining silent on the matter. Police offiers today went to medicine shops and talked with their owners and customers on the shortage of hand sanitisers and masks.

The camps have been set up at Bahinghat, Bishahar and Gosaipur under the Raiganj police station, Kotar More, Balarampur in Karnadighi, and Purnea More in Dalkhola. The other camps are at Rampur More, Majlishpur and Panjipara in Goalpokhar, Kanki in Chakulia and Aliganj, Shanti Nagar and Bihar More in Islampur.