West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said the nationwide lockdown imposed to combat the coronavirus should be entirely lifted from “two weeks after May 4”, NDTV reported. The lockdown, which began on March 25, is slated to continue till May 3.
Banerjee told reporters in Kolkata that she wanted the lockdown to be phased out, “as a citizen and the Trinamool Congress chief”. “Lift 25% of lockdown in the week beginning May 4, reopen 50% in second week after May 4, and total roll back should happen in two weeks after May 4,” she told NDTV.
However, Banerjee added that air and rail traffic, especially long-distance trains, should remain non-operational. She said that “focused intervention” should continue in areas designated as hotspots. Banerjee also insisted that her government was prepared to deal with Covid-19 in West Bengal, amid a tussle with the central government over its teams deputed in the state to check the lockdown situation.
Earlier in the day, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had lashed out at the state government, accusing it of giving a “red carpet” welcome to teams of the World Health Organization visiting East Midnapore and Bishnupur districts, but rebuffing central teams.
“Urge [Mamata Banerjee] to ensure seamless way forward for central teams,” Dhankhar tweeted. “What outcome and gain of WHO visit? Declare! Time to take to Constitution. Let concerned handle mikes/brooms.”
On Thursday evening, the governor also raised concerns flagged by a group of non-resident Bengali doctors. Dhankhar said the doctors had pointed out that there had been gross under-testing for Covid-19 in West Bengal and that data on the death of coronavirus patients was being misreported.
The Centre had on April 20 dispatched two inter-ministerial central teams, or IMCTs, to West Bengal. However, the teams reported that the Banerjee-led government was obstructing their work and denying access to certain areas in the state. However, the state government had claimed that the teams were dispatched without its knowledge.
Subsequently, on April 21, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs directed the West Bengal government to allow the central teams to carry out their work unhindered. The next day, the state government said that it will fully cooperate with the teams. In a letter to Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha denied that the work of these teams was being obstructed.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has confirmed 456 infections in West Bengal and 15 patients have died so far. The number of coronavirus cases in India has risen to 21,700 and 686 patients have died, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s Thursday evening update. However, the Indian Council of Medical Research said at least 21,797 people have tested positive so far. The ministry said it was reconciling its figures with those of the ICMR.