An apex body of traders in north Bengal has welcomed the decision of the state government to impose a near-total lockdown for a fortnight beginning 6 am on Sunday, to 6 pm on 30 May. Only essential services are allowed to remain open during the period.

The convener of the Eastern ABC Chamber of Commerce & Industries, which represents 102 trade associations in the region, Surajit Paul, said they welcomed the stricter curbs.

“It is more important to save the lives of the people. The complete lockdown last year had helped contain the Covid-19 spread. We had urged the state government to continue the lockdown for at least two weeks or four weeks,” Mr Paul said.

Marketplaces will remain open from 7 am to 10 am, while sweetmeat shops will remain open from 10 am to 5 pm. All other shops, establishments, shopping complexes and malls will remain closed for the next two weeks. The government has also imposed a night curfew, which will be observed every night from 9 pm to 5 am, beginning Sunday night.

On the other hand, people were seen queuing up outside liquor shops as news about the lockdown spread today. BJP MLA conducts awareness drive The BJP MLA of Siliguri, Shankar Ghosh, today hit the streets, appealing to people to follow Covid-19 protocols effectively. Mr Ghosh walked the roads in the town with sound hailers fitted on an e-rickshaw.

“Those of you who are roaming outside unprotected are risking the lives of their own family members. Covid-19 cases are on the rise daily and also the deaths, I request you all to follow the Covid protocols,” he appealed to the people. Some party activists accompanied him during the campaign. The party has introduced a helpline number – 9883457642 for the people.

“I have observed that not wearing masks, use of santisisers, not following physical distance, roaming outside without knowing the test reports could be key reasons for the spread. There are many houses where all the family members have been infected. Many people are not realizing the danger. If they do not become aware, the days may come when there will be no bed in hospitals and safe homes,” Mr Ghosh said.

He said the weakness of the health infrastructure in dealing with the Covid-19 situation had been exposed. MLA distributes masks Meanwhile, Matigara-Naxalbari MLA Anandamay Barman distributed masks among residents and conducted sanitization at the Bagdogra and Bhujiapani areas today.

494 new Covid cases in Darjeeling district Meanwhile, Darjeeling district recorded 494 new Covid-19 cases, while the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, including areas under Jalpaiguri district, counted 316 cases today, sources said.

Ninety-eight cases were reported in Matigara Block, 55 in Naxalbari, 22 in Mirik sub-division, 19 in Bijanbari, 14 in Darjeeling Municipality, 10 in Kurseong Municipality, seven cases in Takdah, six each in Sukna, Mirik Municipality and Phansidewa, and five cases each in Sukhia Pokhari and Kharibari.

Meanwhile, 52 persons who had recovered were discharged from government facilities today, the sources said. 13 Covid patients die Around nine persons, who had been tested positive for Covid19, died in the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. Separately, four such patients died in separate nursing homes in Siliguri in the past 24 hours, sources said.