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People Rush to Shops & ATMs as Covid-19 Surge Triggers Strict Lockdown in Bengal Containment Zones from Tomorrow

Thursday, July 9, 2020

/ by News Anuppur
As West Bengal is all set to embrace "rigorous" lockdown in containment zones from July 9 due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases, worried office-goers, panicked family members of critical patients, a devastated traders' community and panic buying have all made a return.
Since Wednesday morning, people queued up before local shops, wholesale grocery chains and hypermarkets like Spencer's, More, METRO Cash & Carry, etc, to stock daily essentials.
“Yes, we are panicked because no shops will be open from tomorrow in my area. I came to Spencer's to buy daily essentials for at least one month. The situation is very concerning as children are unable to attend their classes in schools, office-goers can’t go to their respective workplaces, traders are crying, patients will be having a harrowing time...God knows what is in store for us,” Gurmeet, an interior designer, who stays in Rajarhat said.
As of July 1, there were 18 containment zones and 1,872 isolation units in Kolkata, while in Howrah the figure is 146 and in North 24 Parganas the total number of containment zones is 219.
In South 24 Parganas the figure is 155 while in East Burdwan there are 134 containment zones and in West Midnapore it is 199. In the rest of the districts, the figures range from 5 to 40.
Deputy mayor of Kolkata Atin Ghosh said, “The fresh lockdown announcement was necessary considering the rise in the number of cases. In containment zones, all shops (except which fall under essential category), hotels, food stalls, private and government offices will be closed. Nothing will be open in these areas. Same rules will be applicable in the bordering areas of containment zones which fall under the buffer zone category. In these areas, the local administration will help people in crisis in terms of providing medical assistance, providing essential services, etc. No one will be allowed to roam around in these areas. Only emergency cases will be allowed. The office-goers will have to apply for passes for their movement in extreme cases.”
On July 7, Bengal recorded the highest single-day deaths, repeating this trend for five days in a row. Total new positive cases reported were 850. Total active cases till Tuesday was 7,243 and 25 people died in the last 24 hours.
Total deaths in the state so far are 804 and Kolkata remains the largest contributor of Covid-19 cases in the state. The total number of people discharged so far is 15,790, which is nearly 66.24 per cent.
SK Ghatak, an employee of a cable-manufacturing unit in Howrah, is a worried man ever since the state government announced it was going for a strict lockdown.
“We have to deliver cables to our clients on an urgent basis. From tomorrow, there will be no goods vehicle available to deliver the finished products. We are in a complete mess on how we will survive this pandemic. The traders and manufacturing community people are the worst affected. We are under pressure to deliver fresh goods as clients are not releasing pending dues,” he said.
Like Ghatak, Sheikh Munna, a wholesale mango dealer at Narayanpur in North 24-Parganas, is also in panic.
He bought two quintals of ‘Bhagalpuri Langda’ and ‘Chausa’ mangoes from Koley Market at Kolkata’s Bepin Behari Ganguly Street on Tuesday, unaware of the new notification of the state government on a ‘rigorous’ lockdown.
“The business was going well as the price for mangoes went up and demand was high. Yesterday, I came late in the evening and came to know that from July 9 there will be a strict lockdown. I deal in perishable items (mangoes). I am clueless about how I will be able to sell the fruits now as there will be no buyers,” Munna said.
Similar panic was also noticed in various districts as policemen were seen telling people to follow the lockdown norms or face penal action. Special focus was on Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Howrah where the number of cases are high.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh blamed poor governance behind increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Bengal.
“The state government has completely failed in containing the virus. They failed to ensure WHO norms among the public. No one bothers to wear masks. No one is maintaining social distancing. This shows the failure of the administration in handling the situation,” he added.
The impact of the fresh lockdown notification was also felt at various ATMs as long queues were witnessed at many places.
“The notification has triggered panic buying in Kolkata as customers making bulk purchases. Interestingly most of them are stocking potato and onion as they fear that the prices will increase from tomorrow,” Sukhen Mahato, a vegetable vendor at Salua Market in Rajarhat, said.
For Sujoy Pal (name changed on request) the problem is grave as he stays in the US and his parents are alone in South Kolkata. His mother needs regular dialysis and chemotherapy as she has early stage cancer and acute kidney infection.
For them every day is a battle to survive, as they need to visit the hospital for regular checkups. “My relatives are taking care of my parents. I am just waiting for the resumption of international flight so that I can fly down to Kolkata. Honestly speaking, the overall situation is harrowing and I don't have words to explain the trauma and fear we are facing every day,” Sujoy said.
On Wednesday, concerned over the rising number of Covid-19 cases in West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee decided to enforce a "rigorous" lockdown in all the containment zones from 5pm on July 9.
The state government has also extended the parameters of the containment areas by combining the buffer zones to minimise the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state.
The broader containment zones (including the buffer areas) may be subjected to strict lockdown, and the following activities will be closed in these areas: all offices including government and private, all non-essential activities, all congregations, all transportation, all marketing/industrial/trading activities.
A statement issued by Alapan Bandyopadhyay, additional chief secretary and chairman of the Enforcement Task Force, reads, “In terms of recent discussions and in terms of deliberations with you as well as other members of the Enforcement Task Force with regard to lockdown, I am to impress upon you to rigorously implement the containment policies and practices for combating spread of Covid-19. The current concept of containment zones may be combined with the current concept of buffer zone, and together, they may constitute a revised and broad-based containment zone approach. Residents of the containment zones may be exempted and prohibited from attending government and private offices, in fact, their ingress and egress may be strictly regulated. To the extent practicable, local authorities will try to arrange home delivery to the residents staying inside the broad-based containment zones. You may now delineate your broad-based containment zones. In the case of Kolkata, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and Kolkata Police will have to do it in mutual consultation. In case of districts, DM may initiate similar exercise in consultation with respective CPs/SPs.”

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