Kolkata: Amid spiralling COVID-19 cases in West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday announced extension of the lockdown till July 31 with continuance of the existing relaxations.
The ongoing lockdown was to end on June 30.
West Bengal’s tally of COVID-19 cases climbed to 15,173 with 445 fresh infections on Wednesday, while the death toll rose to 591 as 11 more people succumbed to the disease, health department officials said.
Banerjee told reporters after an all-party meeting that though the participants differed over ways to tackle the pandemic, a consensus emerged that the lockdown should be extended with relaxations.
While there will be complete lockdown in containment zones, relaxations will continue elsewhere.
Banerjee said all educational institutions will remain closed till July 31.
Government offices will function in a “segregated manner” with 70 per cent attendance on any given day.
Metro and suburban train services will remain suspended.
Shopping malls, restaurants and other similar establishments had resumed operations in Bengal on June 8 after a gap of over two months, with the state government allowing relaxations as part of ‘Unlock-1’ — the first phase of a calibrated exit from the coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown.
Places of worship and private offices were also allowed to open with reduced attendance.
“Today, we have discussed the lockdown issue. Though there are different opinions among the people like (CPI-M’s) Surya Kanta Mishra and others, I have told leaders of the political parties present here about our view to extend the lockdown.
“Finally, at the end of the meeting, we are saying that since the COVID-19 is increasing in the entire country, it’s our responsibility to help improve the situation… So let us come together and extend the lockdown (while) maintaining the relaxations,” Banerjee said.
Senior leaders of all political parties and state assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee were present at the meeting.
The Trinamool Congress supremo had called the all-party meeting to deliberate on the COVID-19 scenario in the state and the situation in areas affected by Cyclone Amphan.
Banerjee said in order to take stock of the post-cyclone situation, an expert committee with representatives from all political parties in the state has been constituted.
The committee, headed by West Bengal minister Partha Chatterjee, will include BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty and Congress’ Pradeep Bhattcherjee among others.
“The panel will also review the situation in Sunderbans and propose a master plan to the Niti Aayog on a permanent solution to tackle natural disasters in the area,” she said.
Banerjee said another all-party resolution will be taken up against the central government’s decision to exclude the state from the ‘Garib Kalyan Rojgar Yojana’.
Referring to irregularities in the distribution of relief material to those affected by Cyclone Amphan, the chief minister said, “There have been such instances. But, I want to stress that the administration will not tolerate this. We will not allow anybody to take advantage of his political affiliation.”
“I have received 2,100 complaints. I entrust the DMs and the BDOs (with the task) to find out the genuine cases and help them,” she said.