Food and medicine falls under the ambit of essential services, so there is no restriction on such retailers.
The two-page order makes it clear that selling food — grocery, vegetable, fruit, meat, fish, bread, milk, ration shops — including storage and transportation, will be exempted. Importantly, the Bengal government has specified that “e-commerce of groceries and food items and home delivery of food” will be exempted, too. This exempted list will include petrol pumps, LPG, oil agencies, their godowns and transportation. The order imposes no restrictions on vehicles carrying food and essential supplies.
The Centre, earlier in the day, gave states a free hand to decide on such lockdowns till March 31in 75 zones nationwide which have reported Covid-19 cases, in some cases even deaths. The state subsequently went a step ahead and decided to lock down Kolkata and all municipal towns in Bengal as a pre-emptive step to contain any further spread of the contagion. Bengal has witnessed a large influx of international and domestic travellers through air, road and rail routes, desperate to return home before travel restrictions set in.
Three fresh Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday. A 38-year-old who died in AIIMS, Patna and travelled from Kolkata two days back tested positive , prompting the Bengal government to seek his travel and stay details.
Cops around hospitals to ensure hassle-free commute for patients
The order issued by state chief secretary Rajiva Sinha states that under the provisions of the “Safety Restrictions” of the West Bengal Epidemic Disease, Covid-19 Regulations, 2020, no more than seven persons can gather at any place. The order bars all public transport services, including taxis and autos, from plying in notified zones, but allows vehicles meant to ferry people to hospitals, airports, railway stations and bus terminals. The order makes it clear that all shops, commercial establishments, offices, factories and workshops have to be closed.
The state has made it clear that all foreign returnees are to strictly abide by the home-quarantine rule. The timelines for the home quarantine rules will be decided by health personnel. The order asks people to stay at home and step out only for emergencies while maintaining social distancing norms. Violation of rules can lead to penal prosecution and a sixmonth prison term, sources said. Till Sunday, 22,043 people were in home isolation in Bengal, while 630 people have completed their home quarantine period.
The rules were issued after Sinha discussed the Centre’s inputs with chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Earlier in the day, Sinha had attended a meeting with the Union cabinet secretary and Prime Minister’s principal secretary on Covid-19 preparedness and measures. It was decided in this meeting that all railway, Metro and interstate passenger services would be suspended till May 31. The chief minister, sources said, stressed that an immediate precautionary lockdown was a key step to contain the disease spread as Bengal steps into critical weeks.
The state transport department on Sunday also ordered the suspension of trucks carrying non-essential cargo from midnight on March 22 till March 31. “No such non-essential items carried in national permit-holding goods carriages, such as trucks and trailers, shall be allowed to enter the state with effect from midnight on March 22 till March 31,” read the letter issued by the transport department.
In Kolkata, police said they have identified specific check points. “We have begun conveying our decision to auto, bus and taxi owners. We will be manning the streets of Kolkata in enough numbers. In addition, we have also made arrangements at hospitals, especially Beliaghata ID Hospital, so patients have no problem while commuting. We request essential services vehicles to carry enough documents with them,” an officer told TOI.
“The final line of action will be communicated to the officers of the force by noon on Monday,” said joint CP (headquarters) Subhankar Sinha Sarkar.
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