The West Bengal government on Tuesday extended the restrictions in the state till August 31. The total lockdown across the state twice a week will also continue.
Announcing the decision, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters, “The biweekly total lockdown across the state will also remain in place till the end of next month.”
The state government also released dates of the biweekly lockdown, but revised them twice.
Initially, the Chief Minister announced 10 dates for the biweekly shutdown in August. According to sources in the government, the administration initially decided to implement restrictions only on weekends. However, it then decided to accommodate festivals and events such as Eid, Raksha Bandhan and Independence Day.
“We tried to impose lockdown on weekends to avoid disturbing the working days. But, we had to accommodate some festivals and other important days. Independence day and Raksha Bandhan cannot be on days of lockdown. So we had to change the dates,” Banerjee told reporters.
Later, at a press meet, the Chief Minister announced a change in dates as two of the dates announced earlier coincided with Ganesh Chaturthi and Muharram. The number of days when the state would be under lockdown was reduced to nine — August 2, 5, 8, 9, 16, 17, 23, 24 and 31.
Late on Tuesday night, the Home Department said lockdown would not be imposed on August 2 and 9. “After announcing the statewide complete lockdown dates…the government has been receiving requests and appeals from different quarters not to observe statewide lockdown on certain dates coinciding with festivals and important community occasions,” it tweeted. The department added, “Respecting the sentiments of the people we are withdrawing complete lockdown announcement for August 2 and August 9.”
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister said schools and colleges would remain closed till the end of August. However, if the situation improves, schools can reopen from September 5, and function on alternate days, she said.
The Chief Minister also said that the state had ramped up testing. “Over 16,000 tests are happening daily,” she said.