Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday asked the Calcutta and Howrah district authorities to take strict measures to check lockdown violations, warning that complacency could worsen the threat of community transmission of Covid-19.
Mamata, who conducted a videoconference with the administrations of all the districts, confirmed a higher daily volume of cases in Bengal over the past few days, mostly from Calcutta and Howrah.
“Khoob kharap jaygay eshey gyachhey (It has reached a very bad stage). If from transmission within families it gets to community transmission, we will get many patients from one place alone,” the chief minister said.
Mamata clarified that she was referring only to some wards in the north and centre of Calcutta.
“We must enforce the lockdown strongly in these places. If necessary, police will send them (people) food at home. Kintu melameshata bondho kortey hobeyi (But social mingling must be stopped),” she said.
“If necessary, nobody will get out…. If necessary, deploy armed police. This must be done for 7-10 days, we have to…. I appeal to everyone,” the chief minister added.
Several pockets in Calcutta, North 24-Parganas and Howrah have become a headache for the government.
“We are not shutting down markets, but in the red zones they must shut by 10am. Restrictions must be imposed against gatherings. No more than five at any place, in front of any shop. Mingling, socialising, adda must end for now,” Mamata said, seeking the people’s “forgiveness” for the inconvenience.
Earlier on Friday, chief secretary Rajiva Sinha had reported 22 coronavirus-positive cases in the past 24 hours.
Mamata set a 14-day target for upgrading Calcutta, Howrah and North 24-Parganas from the red zone to the orange zone. A red zone or hotspot becomes an orange zone if no new cases are reported for 14 days. It becomes an infection-free green zone if it reports no cases for another 14 days.
Mamata said East Midnapore, classified a red zone by the Centre on Wednesday, had already qualified for the orange zone.
On April 10, the chief secretary had said that Bengal was planning a “complete lockdown” in nine to 10 hotspots, including parts of Calcutta. But on April 11, following reports of panic-driven activities by residents, Mamata had stopped short of a complete lockdown.
Since then, the daily rise in positive cases has grown from 5-7 to more than 20.
On Friday, Mamata refused to name the Calcutta localities she had in mind on account of “sensitivity”. Government sources said the Calcutta localities were mostly areas with large concentration of the poor.
Mamata told the Howrah administration: “Howrah is very sensitive. Places such as Shibpur, Mandirbazar, Bankrahat, Sankrail, Dhulagarh — especially the urban areas — besides Malipanchghara, Belur and some other places must be handled aggressively…. Keep doing what you have been doing, under instructions from the chief secretary.”
She added: “North 24-Parganas, I don’t understand, from dengue to Covid-19, you feature high in everything…. Treat it with the utmost seriousness.”
Government sources said each resident in the sensitive areas would be health-screened as soon as the rapid-test kits arrived. “The process has already begun in parts of Calcutta. It will start in Howrah from tomorrow,” an official said on Friday.
Mamata said the treatment being offered in Bengal was “the best in the country” and regretted that it was rarely talked about.
“We have already cured 55 people…. One must not forget that Bengal conceived and declared a lockdown before the rest of the country, three days ahead of everyone else,” she said.
Bengal had started a seven-day lockdown on March 22, three days before the national lockdown began on March 25.