The “complete safety restrictions” laid down by the Bengal government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus come into effect from 5pm on Monday.
The order issued by the chief secretary will cover Calcutta and other towns in Bengal, a government notification stated.
An official said the state government would review the situation in between to decide whether the restrictions would have to be extended.
The Telegraph answers your questions on the restrictions.
When are the complete safety restrictions coming into force?
From 5pm on Monday, March 23.
How long will it be in force?
Till the midnight of March 27. Officials said the duration of the restrictions could be extended if required.
Which are the areas covered by the order?
The entire Calcutta Municipal Corporation area, Salt Lake, New Town and other municipal towns of North 24-Parganas and Diamond Harbour, Canning, Sonarpur, Baruipur, Bhangar, Budge Budge and Mahestala in South 24-Parganas.
Does it mean that I cannot step out of home at all?
People are required to stay at home and come out only for basic services while strictly following social distancing guidelines issued earlier, the order said.
What do basic services mean?
Procurement of basic necessities such as food, medicine, cooking fuel etc.
Will shops be open?
All shops, commercial establishments, offices and factories, workshops, godowns etc have been asked to close their operations till March 27.
What about groceries and everyday necessities?
The order made it clear that establishments — private shops, too — that sell food, including public distribution system (PDS) goods, groceries, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, bread and milk will be allowed. Those dealing with their storage and transportation can also function.
What about petrol and cooking gas?
Petrol pumps, LPG, oil agencies, including godowns and transportation, will be allowed to operate.
Medicine shops, optical stores, pharmaceutical manufacturing and their transportation will be open.
Hospitals will remain open. Health services, including that provided by the private sector, is bracketed in the essential services category.
Will transport be available?
No public transport service, including taxis and auto-rickshaws, will be permitted, the order said. The bar will cover private buses also.
Private cars can run if the objective is for procuring basic services or tackling emergencies.
Exemption will be granted to vehicles to and from hospitals, airports, railway stations (the railway ministry has separately halted passenger trains till March 31), bus stands and terminals and goods carriers ferrying food and essential commodities.
A few state-run buses on some important routes may run.
What about app cabs?
App caps will not be allowed for regular rides. A few may be allowed near hospitals for emergencies.
If no trains run, can vegetables reach markets?
Nearly 80 per cent of the vegetables are taken by suburban trains to the markets in Calcutta and its surroundings. As the railways have stopped all suburban trains till March 31, the effort will be to bring them by the road.
This may have price implications. But remember that everyone is dealing with an unparalleled situation. The government will watch the situation for a few days and is expected to intervene with resources if the situation demands so. That’s why a review has been scheduled on March 27.
What if I need to buy essential supplies such as rice and oil and I do not have a car?
E-commerce of groceries, food items and home delivery of food is allowed. If you do not access these online services, you will have to depend on the nearest shop for essential commodities.
Will alcohol be sold?
What about trains?
All long-distance and suburban passenger trains have been cancelled till March 31. Trains that had started their journey before 4am on Sunday will complete their journey, said a railway official. The passengers who had booked tickets on the cancelled trains will be entitled to a full refund, he added. Only goods train will continue running, said officials.
Calcutta Metro will also suspend its services from March 23 to 31, said an official.
What about flights?
The operation of international flights has been suspended for a week from March 22.
An official of the Calcutta airport has said the airport is operational for domestic flights. While some of the domestic airline operators have said they will continue their operation, others have yet to decide. Passengers have been asked to get in touch with the airline concerned for any change in flight schedule.
Can I go to work?
No. But you can go to work if your establishment, including that in the private sector, is involved in providing any of the following essential services.
- Law order and court and correctional services;
- Health services;
- Police, armed forces and paramilitary forces;
- Electricity, water and conservancy services;
- Fire, civil defence and emergency services,
- Telecom, internet, IT and ITES and postal services;
- Banks and ATMs;
- Food, including public distribution system, groceries, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, bread and milk selling, storage and transportation;
- E-commerce of groceries, food items and home delivery of food;
- Petrol pumps, LPG, oil agencies, their godowns and transportation;
- Medicine shops, optical stores, pharmaceutical manufacturing and their transportation;
- Production and manufacturing units requiring continuous process may continue to function after obtaining necessary approval from the district magistrate;
- Print, electronic media and social media;
- Manufacturing units engaged in production of essential commodities.
What if there is a dispute about whether my area of work falls among essential services?
If there is any doubt whether any establishment is essential or not, the district magistrate/ municipal commissioner shall be the competent authority to decide, according to the order.
What if I have returned from abroad recently?
All foreign returnees and other such persons so required by the health personnel are directed to remain under strict home quarantine for a period as decided by the local health authorities, the order said.
If I step out to buy food, can I form a group and go?
Any congregation of more than seven persons is prohibited in public places.
What if I flout the safety restrictions?
Any person found violating these instructions shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). The maximum punishment can be six months in jail or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both. It is a bailable offence, which means the police can grant bail.
How will home caregivers operate?
A body that represents the caregivers said they have scaled down their services in the past 10 days, attending only to requests for trips to banks, medicine shops, doctors etc. They requested clients a week ago to buy stocks of their regular medicines. With the lockdown now, they will continue to help with only medical emergencies and dialysis trips.
“Our monitoring centre will be handled remotely by staff members working from home, to whose personal phones the helpline calls will get automatically diverted. We are getting frantic calls from children settled abroad. We are reassuring them as best as we can. Although we do not provide ayah services directly, our sister concerns have been asked to tell the ayahs to stay at the homes of the clients who are completely indisposed,” said Apratim Chattopadhyay, founder, CEO and MD of Support Elders, an elderly care provider.
How will banks and ATMs function?
Banks and ATMs have been excluded from the restrictions. Public sector banks are planning skeletal services at branches for services like cash deposits and withdrawals, clearing of cheques, remittances and clearing of government transactions. Customers will have to depend on digital banking for payments and other services.
Bankers are worried about availability of employees at branches and headquarters on account of the lack of transportation. Certain private sector banks are looking to truncate working hours.
“The servicing of ATMs and filling up of cash is mostly outsourced to private agencies. Outsourced vehicles may have to take permission from the district magistrate or municipal commissioner or the police to run on the roads and adequate guards and support staff are also needed. All this will take time,” an executive of a private bank said.
What is the legal grounding for the order on the complete safety restrictions?
The Bengal government, exercising power conferred under Sections 2,3 and 4 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, has framed the West Bengal Epidemic Disease, Covid-19 Regulations, 2020 for prevention and containment of the coronavirus disease, 2019.
Section 2 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, gives the government the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations to contain the epidemic.
Section 3 arms the government with the power to impose penalty on any person disobeying any regulation or order made under the act.
Section 4 says no suit or other legal proceedings shall lie against any person for anything done or in good faith intended to be done under the act. Who are empowered to enforce the order that notified the complete safety restrictions?
Who are empowered to enforce the order that notified the complete safety restrictions?
All district magistrates, police commissioners, municipal commissioners, SPs, ADMs, CMOHs, SDOs, BDOs and executive magistrates are authorised to take all necessary measures for enforcing and implementing the instructions. All local police authorities shall extend necessary assistance as and when requisitioned by the aforesaid officers, the order said.