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Bengal shuts down malls, bars, gyms; markets to remain open for limited hrs

Bengal shuts down malls, bars, gyms; markets to remain open for limited hrs

Kolkata: In a bid to check the abnormal surge in Covid cases, the state government on Friday imposed a set of restrictions directing the closure of shopping malls, beauty parlours, cinema halls, restaurants and bars, sports complexes, gyms, spas and swimming pools for an indefinite period. The restrictions have come into effect on an immediate basis from Friday evening onwards.

The move has been taken when Bengal on Friday registered 17,411 new Covid cases, which also claimed 96 lives in a single day, the highest ever daily fatality reported so far.

In a bid to keep the supply of essentials normal no restriction has been imposed on home deliveries and online services as the notification states that it "shall remain operational as usual".

Restrictions have also been imposed on the timing of local markets. "Bazaars and haats will remain open only (three hours in the morning) for 7 am to 10 am and 3 to 5 pm (two hours in the evening)."

Essential services like medicine shops, medical equipment shops and grocery shops have been kept out of any restriction.

Though private transport facilities will remain operational following the Covid norms, it has been stated in the notification that all sorts of congregations including "social, cultural, academic and entertainment gatherings shall remain private".

A complete lockdown in 2020 was imposed in the state on March 23. Gradually, the restrictions were withdrawn with the drop in the number of Covid cases. According to the sources in the state Secretariat, the restrictions imposed on Friday are the first towards imposing those similar to 2020 as stricter moves may be taken if the surge in virus cases continues.

The counting of the staggering eight-phase polls in the state will be held on May 2. In this connection, the state government has said in the notification that the guidelines of the Election Commission have to be followed in connection with "all activities related to election counting, procession and victory rallies".

The EC has already stated that no victory processions can be organised and counting agents of all political parties have to provide Covid negative test reports to enter the counting stations.

There will also be no "unnecessary congregations in the neighbourhoods of the counting halls" and one should also abide by the physical distancing norms and other Covid-appropriate behaviour. Crowding and loitering near the counting centres need to be averted.

The state government has clearly maintained that any violation of these orders "will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provision of the Disaster Management Act 2005 and legal actions would be taken under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)".

Soon after the state Secretariat issued the order, police were found miking at various markets, outside shopping malls and busy intersections at their respective areas across the state.

All District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police have started taking all necessary moves to implement the restrictions. Officers of all police stations were directed to maintain a close vigil whether the restrictions were being followed. The police will patrol their respective areas to ensure the same.

According to experts, the move taken by the state government will help to bring down the sudden surge in Covid cases by breaking the chain in the next one or two weeks.

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