Alleging lack of screening at airports and some flyers’ resisting to stay in quarantine at paid institutional centres, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday asked the Centre to allow only one international and two domestic flights a month, and stop trains especially from hotspot areas until the coronavirus situation improves. She, however, relaxed the night curfew window by one hour from next month and said that Metro services in Kolkata can resume from July 1.
The CM’s request came on a day when the state’s Covid caseload breached the 16,000 mark with death toll climbing to 616.
Around 60 domestic flights land at the Kolkata airport daily since the Centre allowed resumption of air services a month ago. Twenty-five international flights have landed at the airport under the Vande Bharat Mission.
Addressing a press conference at the state secretariat here, the Chief Minister said, “Initially, the Centre had asked foreign returnees to go for paid institutional quarantine for seven days. But no protocol is being followed. No checking is happening at the airport. They are going home. This poses a threat to our neighbourhoods… You are talking about testing, tracking and tracing, but how can we trace if you can’t stop them.”
According to state secretariat sources, at least 151 people, who had returned to Kolkata from Kyrgyzstan on Thursday night, refused to cooped up in institutional quarantine centres and engaged in a verbal spat with security personnel at the airport. The state government has objected to such violations and fear that such “negligence will harm Bengal”.
Citing an example of a coronavirus positive patient being allowed to fly from Chennai to Kolkata in May, she said such slip-ups may lead to “community transmission”.
“This might lead to community spread, and no one will be able to control it. We are trying to manage the situation here and can’t allow someone to destroy our efforts. We have not received any help from the Centre to tackle coronavirus and will not accept their negligence too,” claimed Banerjee while inaugurating various projects online from the state secretariat.
Banerjee, who had had recently extended the lockdown in containment zones till July 31, relaxed the night curfew hours to 10 pm-5 am from the next month. Currently, the window is 9 pm to 5 am.
Metro services can resume from July 1 with a maximum of 100 per cent seating capacity with no passenger standing, she said
“We want the Metro railways to resume services from July 1 by following all the precautionary and sanitisation norms and only with a 100 per cent seating occupancy policy,” Banerjee said.
The chief minister also asked the Centre to stop trains from places with high prevalence of Covid cases. A political war had broken out in May after the state government requested the Centre to stop sending trains meant for migrant workers. Banerjee had maintained that the request was in the interest of Bengal and was deliberately misrepresented by opposition BJP for politics.
The chief minister also decided to provide a monthly subsidy of Rs 15,000 for each private bus that ferries commuters. Around 6,000 buses will benefit from the move.
Private bus operators have been demanding a fare hike as coronavirus restrictions on seating capacity have, they claim, rendered operations unviable.
“I understand their problem… From July 1, the government will pay Rs 15,000 for each bus as we cannot increase the fare keeping in mind the common man,” she said.
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