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Entire West Bengal under lockdown till Mar 31, two more test

Press Trust of India  |  Kolkata 

The West Bengal government Tuesday extended the duration of the lockdown till March 31 and expanded it to cover the entire state, as two fresh COVID-19 positive cases were reported, taking the total number of those afflicted to nine. One of them had died on Monday.

Ramping up the efforts to contain the Coronavirus outbreak, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee this evening extended the ongoing lockdown in force in Kolkata and major towns and cities to the entire state.

Meanwhile, two more people with a recent history of foreign travel to the UK and Egypt tested positive for the virus, taking the total number of active cases in the state to eight.

They have been kept in the isolation ward of the Beliaghata Infectious Diseases hospital, a health official said.

Besides these eight cases, Bengal had on Monday reported its first COVID 19 death when a 57-year-old man died from the contagion.

Banerjee, also the health minister of the state, while announcing the extension of the lockdown, said, "The decision has been taken after assessing the situation, and it has been decided to extend the complete safety regulation to the entire state starting 5 pm today till March 31.

The initial five-day lockdown in Kolkata and major parts of the state had begun on Monday and was scheduled to continue till March 27 midnight.

Reiterating her claim that the Centre is yet to extend any help to her government to cope with the situation, she said, "We have already announced free ration for 8.85 crore people for the next six months.

"Now, we are launching a scheme, Prochesta, to help those in the unorganised sector. They will get a financial help of Rs 1,000. They can apply for it between April 15 and 30."

The chief minister also said she has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to relax the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act which provides for limiting fiscal deficit of states to 3 per cent of the SGDP and raise it to 5 per cent.

"We have not got any assistance from the central government. A few states have increased tax on petrol and diesel, but we have not done so because people will face problems."

In the wake of fear that the virus could spread through newspapers, she said, police will monitor the distribution of newspapers by hawkers following a proper procedure from Wednesday.

She also visited several hospitals in Kolkata on Tuesday, including the Beliaghata Infectious Diseases Hospital where the eight COVID-19 patients are undergoing treatment, and lauded the efforts of the medical fraternity in fighting the disease.

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Calcutta High Court and the district judiciary in West Bengal will not function from March 25 to April 9, Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan ordered on Tuesday.

Earlier, the residents of West Bengal woke up to empty roads and deserted public places as the five-day lockdown in vast swathes of the state entered the second day on Tuesday.

Private vehicles were off the roads while all business establishments, barring those dealing with essential commodities were shut.

Major railway stations, bus terminals and airports were deserted. Only a few police vehicles and those associated with emergency services were seen on the roads.

In some places, people were seen venturing out of their homes, prompting police to force them to return.

According to Kolkata police sources, more than 1000 people across the city have been arrested for violating the lockdown since Monday morning.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, March 24 2020. 21:02 IST