KOLKATA: The COVID-related restrictions in West Bengal were extended till August 30 with relaxations in the curbs during the night hours, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Thursday.
The restrictions, first imposed on May 16 amid the second wave of the pandemic and extended at regular intervals, were about to expire on August 15.
"The COVID situation in Bengal is quite good but the danger of the third wave is still lurking. This is one of the reasons we have not allowed local trains," Banerjee said, addressing a press conference.
She said that local trains could have been allowed to operate if the state received enough vaccines to inoculate the rural people with at least one dose.
"We have decided to extend the ongoing COVID restrictions for 15 more days till August 30," she added.
The chief minister announced that the night hours during which stringent restrictions are imposed will be reduced.
"We have decided a few relaxations -- such as full lockdown during the night will now be from 11 pm to 5 am, instead of 9 pm to 5 am," she said.
She said that theatre halls and swimming pools will be allowed to open with 50 per cent capacity.
Banerjee said that the number of coronavirus cases is not increasing in the state and any report to the contrary is wrong.
"The positivity rate is not more than 1.5 per cent while it was 33 per cent during the eight-phase assembly polls (held earlier this year). The number of cases is hovering between 600 to 800. This is the situation even when we could not vaccinate people the way we want," she said.
Banerjee said that when the discharge rate is 98.3 per cent and the death rate is 1.99 per cent, it would be erroneous to say that there is a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The chief minister said that the state is not getting the required doses of vaccines.
"If we get vaccines, we can at least ensure one dose of vaccine for the rural population and then we can allow local trains," she said.
Those trains can start operating if at least 50 per cent of people in neighbouring districts of Kolkata can be inoculated, the chief minister said.
"While 75 per cent population in urban belts have been given at least one vaccine dose, the situation is not the same in villages.
Doctors predict that there could be a third wave in September which might affect children more.
So we have to be on guard," Banerjee added.
She said that the state is administering 3.5 to 4 lakh doses daily but it is able to give 11 lakh doses daily.
To decongest prisons, Banerjee announced that her government will release 73 life convicts.
"On August 2, we had announced to prematurely release 63 life convicts on humanitarian grounds. Today, we have decided to release 73 more life convicts," she said.
Expressing concern over the flood situation in Ghatal in Paschim Medinipur district, Banerjee said, "The area is flooded in every alternate year. A master plan is needed for a permanent solution."
She said that a high-level team of officials visited the area on Thursday.
The state on Thursday reported 747 new COVID-19 cases which pushed the tally to 15,36,446, a bulletin issued by the health department said.
Ten new COVID-19 fatalities pushed the death toll to 18,268, it said.
Of the 747 new cases, 88 were recorded in North 24 Parganas followed by 77 in Kolkata and 74 in Darjeeling.
West Bengal currently has 10,127 active COVID-19 cases as 15,08,051 people have recovered from the disease, including 773 on Thursday, it said.
The COVID-19 recovery rate in the state now is 98.15 per cent and the fatality rate is 1.19 per cent, the bulletin said.
As many as 1,62,55,271 samples have been tested in the state for COVID-19 so far, including 45,446 since Wednesday.
The state has so far inoculated 3,29,81,309 people with COVID-19 vaccines, including 2,99,872 on Thursday, it added.