Kolkata: The West Bengal government on Tuesday decided to extend the statewide lockdown till March 31 to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Addressing a press conference, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “After closely monitoring the ground realties, we have decided to extend to the statewide lockdown till March 31, 2020.” Earlier, the state government had announced selective lockdown from March 23 to 27.
Hitting out at the Narendra Modi-led central government, Banerjee said the state has not received any help so far. “With limited resources and funds, we are trying our best to contain the virus from spreading in our state,” she said.
She said has written to the Prime Minister seeking immediate fiscal measures to deal with the crisis.
Banerjee requested him to allow the state government to borrow more by raising the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) limits to at least 5 per cent of the GDP during the 2020-21 fiscal.
“I write to you urgently in the backdrop of this unprecedented pandemic which is crippling the economy that was already suffering from a recession. The capacity of states to mobilise resources will be severely crippled under such circumstances. There is no doubt that GST collection will plummet where it consists of 70 per cent of the states’ tax collection.
"With further fall in Central tax collection, the amount of funds to be distributed to states will also plummet. In such a situation, I urge you to allow the states to borrow more raising the FRBM limits to at least 5 percent of their GDP during the 2020-21 fiscal. The states can then amend their FRBM commitments in their own legislatures as they find appropriate,” the letter read.
Meanwhile, the CM said she would pay surprise visits to different places along with the Kolkata police commissioner to assess the ground preparedness to combat the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Regarding distribution of newspapers that has created panic in some areas with rumours floating about them being carriers of the virus, Banerjee said, “I have issued instructions that newspapers will not be sold on streets. Vendors have to collect the same from press trucks and directly supply to households.”
The CM also announced a new scheme ‘Prochesta’ (effort) under which Rs 1,000 will be given to those who belonging to the unorganised sector, like daily wage labourers, to make ends meet during the crisis.
The state health department has decided to convert entire campus of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital into a COVID-19 speciality unit in the next one week.
Later in the day, Banerjee paid a visit to NRS Medical College and Hospital, SSKM College and Hospital, RK Kar Medical College and Hospital, Beliaghata ID Hospital and the COVID-19 quarantine facility in Rajarhat and distributed masks and sanitisers to the staff. She also interacted with the unit heads at the hospitals.