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Bengal registers biggest single-day spike with 371 COVID-19 cases; private bus owners divided over resuming services

Eight people have succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours -- seven from Kolkata and one from neighbouring North 24 Parganas -- raising the death toll to 245.

Published: 01st June 2020 09:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st June 2020 09:08 AM   |  A+A-

A view of Kalighat Kali temple which is yet to be re-open after the authorities permitted to open all religious places from June 01 following ease in restrictions during the fourth phase of COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in Kolkata Sunday May 31 2020. (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

KOLKATA: West Bengal registered the highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases on Sunday with 371 more testing positive for the disease, the health department said.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the state currently stood at 5,501, while active cases rose to 3,027, the department said.

Eight people have succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours -- seven from Kolkata and one from neighbouring North 24 Parganas -- raising the death toll to 245.

During the period, 187 people were discharged from different hospitals, taking the number of recoveries in the state to 2,157.

Earlier, the state government had attributed deaths of 72 coronavirus-afflicted people to comorbidities and had said COVID-19 in those cases was "incidental".

Of the 371 fresh cases, 72 are from the metropolis, 60 from North 24 Parganas, 47 from Howrah, 43 from Hooghly, 27 from Birbhum, 18 from Nadia, 13 from East Burdwan, 11 from Murshidabad, eight from Bankura, six each from West Burdwan, Purulia and South 24 Parganas, four from East Medinipore, and two from West Medinipore, the health department said in its bulletin.

In Kolkata, four residents of staff quarters at Beliaghata ID hospital one of the facilities earmarked for COVID-19 patients were found to have contracted the disease.

At least 47 cases were recorded in the northern part of the state -- 36 from Coochbehar, nine from Dakshin Dinajpur and two from Malda.

One person diagnosed with the disease was not a resident of Bengal and his whereabouts were being determined, an official said.

"A chunk of those who tested positive are migrant labourers who recently returned to Bengal from other states. These people mostly hail from districts such as Dakshin Dinajpur, Coochbehar, Malda, Murshidabad, Hooghly, North 24 Parganas, Birbhum and East Burdwan," the senior official of the department said.

As many as 9,354 samples were tested for COVID-19 since Saturday evening.

The number of samples examined so far has climbed to 2,03,751, it added.

Meanwhile, a pharmacist, who had tested positive for the disease, died at a private hospital in Howrah, a source in the department said.

It is yet to be ascertained whether he died of the disease or due to comorbidity, the source said, adding contact tracing and follow-up action were underway.

The West Bengal government has allowed inter-district movement of state transport undertaking and private bus services from Monday, but the private operators are divided over recommencing services with a lesser number of passengers owing to the social distancing norms.

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While the Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity on Sunday said that it will recommence services in some routes on an experimental basis, the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates said it will not be possible to run buses with only sitting capacity passengers on current fares as that would lead to losses.

In a meeting of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates on Sunday, it was decided that a memorandum will be given to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikary on Tuesday, seeking formation of a regulatory body for revising fares, its general secretary Tapan Banerjee said.

Rahul Chatterjee, secretary of Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity (coordination committee), another body of bus owners in the state, said that buses will be run on some routes in Kolkata and the districts from Monday on an experimental basis.

They, however, demanded that the government consider an increase in fares so as to keep the services going without causing losses to the owners.

"As it is, the buses have been idling since March 22. A lot of money has to be spent to make these roadworthy again. We seek the government waive road tax for the period that the buses have not been plying and also seek the Centre's intervention in reducing insurance premium," Chatterjee said.

He said that the government should also provide its infrastructure for sanitising the buses at its various facilities and also provide face masks and gloves and hand sanitisers to the staff.

The West Bengal government, in an order issued on Saturday, allowed intra-state (inter-district) movement of government and private buses from June 1, with passengers not more than the actual seating capacity of the bus.

"No passenger shall be allowed to travel standing in the bus. All passengers shall wear face masks and gloves during the entire journey," the order said.

It has not said anything about restarting of inter- state bus services.

West Bengal Transport Corporation is already running buses on 40 city routes, while SBSTC and NBSTC are running buses in the districts in south Bengal and north Bengal.

All these STUs have already recommenced inter-district bus services from May 27.

Private bus operators have stayed away from resuming services as their demands for increasing fares were not met by the state government.

The private bus operators had demanded a nearly three-time hike in fares, claiming that carrying only 20 passengers at a time in each bus as per the government directive for maintaining social distancing norms owing to the coronavirus pandemic would lead to huge losses for them.

The state government had earlier allowed only 20 passengers in a bus at a time.



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