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Covid-19: West Bengal extends lockdown till March 31

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on March 24, 2020

Mamata Banerjee,West Bengal Chief Minister

Nearly 255 people were arrested on Monday for violating lockdown orders

West Bengal has extended a complete lockdown till March 31, even as two new Covid-19 cases were reported in the State.

A previous order had stated the lockdown would be in effect from 5 pm of March 23 till midnight of March 27.

Announcing the extension of the lockdown by another four days, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the decision was taken keeping in mind the “safety” of people and as a “precautionary measure” to prevent further spread of the virus.

Referring to a case study, she said that while the virus took 67 days to infect the first 100,000 people, it took just 11 days for the next 100,000.

“Keeping in mind the safety of people and as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus, we are extending the lockdown period till March 31,” she said.

Earlier in the day, two patients — both with a history of foreign travel — tested positive for Covid-19, taking the total count to nine (including the death of a 57-year-old).

Nearly 255 people were arrested on Monday for violating lockdown orders.

Relief package

The Chief Minister has also announced a relief package of ₹1,000 per month for daily labourers and those involved in the unorganised sector, if their employment is impacted by a virus-induced slowdown in economic activity.

“We have limited resources. But if there is an absolute needy person in the unorganised sector who has suffered a job loss, we will give him/her ₹1,000 per month as compensation,” she said.

Banerjee has also written to the Prime Minister, seeking an extension of the borrowing limits under the FRBM Act. Current rules say States can borrow 3 per cent of their GDP, which the CM wants increased to 5 per cent. Banerjee has reasoned that GST collections will “plummet”, with States’ collections also falling short.

Protests in Kolkata

Meanwhile, the cremation of a 57-year-old man, the State’s first Covid-19 death case, led to protests in a north Kolkata locality. Residents, mostly subalterns and slum dwellers living near the crematorium, stopped the last rites citing apprehensions over the spreading of the infection. They closed the crematorium gates and did not allow the body to be taken in.

A large police contingent had to step in and, after a two-hour stand-off, the last rites were performed around Monday midnight.

As many as 16 people, including eight women, were arrested, Kolkata police officials said.

Over the last 24 hours, the police have also been cracking down on those spreading rumours and panic.

For instance, the employee of a private airline, a resident of south-west Kolkata, had posted a video describing how she was harassed by neighbours over rumours of her being infected. Kolkata police put out a tweet saying the local police station has been asked to help her out.

Published on March 24, 2020

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