13/05/2020 10:41 AM IST

West Bengal Red Zones To Be Divided In 3 Parts; Active Coronavirus Cases Drop For First The Time

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the BJP alleging the party was trying to spark communal tensions. Meanwhile, eight more people died of Covid-19.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in a file photo. 

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Tuesday that there was unlikely to be relief from the Covid-19 crisis and said that a three-month plan was needed to deal with the situation. 

She, however, said red zones in the state will see relaxations as they will be divided into three parts. 

Banerjee harshly criticised the BJP in her address, saying the opposition party was trying to create communal tensions in the state even as the saffron party continued to accuse the chief minister of fudging numbers. 

There were eight more deaths in West Bengal from Covid-19 and 110 fresh cases. 

Drop in active cases

The number of active Covid-19 cases dropped in the state for the first time from 1,374 on Monday to 1,363 on Tuesday after 111 patients were discharged and eight people died. 

The death toll without counting the deaths of those who also had co-morbidities is at 126. But if the deaths of the 72 who tested positive but had co-morbidities is counted, it is at 198 — which is the toll the Union health ministry shows.  

PTI reported that of the eight people who died, six were from Kolkata while one each was from the North 24 Parganas and Howrah districts — all of which are red zones.

Red zones to be divided 

During the bulletin on Tuesday, chief minister Banerjee said that the red zones in the state would be further divided to provide relaxation of some rules in those areas. 

Banerjee was quoted by The Telegraph as saying, “Red zones will be divided into three categories — A, B and C. The police would finalise the divisions and submit a report by May 15. Once we receive the report, we will take decisions.” 

Red zone A will have no relaxations, red zone B will have some relaxations with social distancing and red zone C will be areas outside of containment zones and will have essential goods and services available. 

PTI reported that district magistrates, along with senior police personnel, will decide on reopening of shops and availability of services in red zones, the chief minister said, adding that buses and taxis will be allowed to ply only in green zones.

“Editing and dubbing activities for film and television may resume, provided those involved strictly follow safety guidelines. Shooting, however, will not be allowed for now,” she said.

But these relaxations, the CM said, would be allowed only if it doesn’t make the situation worse. 

While Banerjee did not clarify on how the red zones will be split, an official anonymously told The Telegraph, “If positive cases are being reported on a regular basis from a containment zone, it would fall in the A category. If a containment zone does not report any positive case for a certain period, say two weeks, it would fall in the B category. The rest of the district would fall in the C category,” said an official.

Three-month plan

Banerjee said that it was unlikely that there will be any relief from the coronavirus anytime soon, so there needed to be a three-month plan to tackle the situation. 

PTI quoted her as saying, “Don’t think we will get relief from the COVID-19 crisis anytime soon. We should have a three-month short-term plan in place to tackle the situation. I have told district magistrates and police superintendents that this situation will continue but we need to focus on relaxations and revival of the economy,” Banerjee said.

She lashed out at the Centre for going into lockdown without planning in March. 

“Our rural economy has been hit. There must be a balance between tackling the pandemic and saving livelihoods,” she said.

According to the state government website, there are 339 containment zones in the metropolis while in Howrah there are 76 such zones and 92 in North 24 Parganas and 30 in South 24 Parganas districts.

There are 10 red zones in the state that has been categorised by the Union government — Kolkata, Howrah, North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas, West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Malda, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong

‘BJP instigating communal clashes’

The chief minister criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the centre was yet to clear out the dues for the state and said that the BJP was trying to instigate communal clashes in the state. 

“Stern action will be taken against those involved in communal clashes amid the lockdown. No one will be spared if found guilty of fomenting trouble,” PTI quoted her as saying. She was referring to the violence that erupted last week in Hooghly.

“People are already under so much stress due to this COVID-19 crisis. Add to that, some leaders are writing provocative posts to create problems. Yesterday, I told the prime minister how some central ministers were trying to invite trouble. A year to go before the assembly elections but one political party is getting impatient,” Banerjee said.

There were clashes in the Telinipara area of West Bengal’s Hooghly district after members of one community were allegedly addressed as “corona” by a handful of locals belonging to another group. 

Banerjee also dismissed accusations of the state fudging numbers. 

“When Bengal took a decision on reporting co-morbidity, we were criticised. Now other states are following suit. We never hid anything,” PTI quoted her as saying. 

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BJP says Mamata ‘trying to hide her own failure’

The opposition BJP did not take kindly to Banerjee’s comments that the lockdown was badly planned. 

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “She has a habit of blaming the Centre for everything. This time too there is no difference.”

Ghosh, commenting on the removal of the state’s health secretary said, “something seriously wrong with the state’s handling of the pandemic”

“Earlier when questions were raised over the PDS system, the state had removed its food secretary, now when questions are being raised over the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, the health secretary has been shunted. This proves that the allegations were correct and the state government is now trying to clean the mess by using scapegoats,” he was quoted by PTI as saying. 

“All the decisions are taken after a nod by the chief minister, then how can she deny her responsibility?” Ghosh asked.

Amid raging controversy over alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, health secretary Vivek Kumar was transferred. 

(With PTI inputs)