Admitting that community transmission of COVID-19 was recorded in a few areas, the West Bengal government on Monday announced a complete lockdown in the state twice a week in a bid to break the fast-spreading chain of the contagion.
The announcement came as Bengal recorded the highest 2,282 infections, pushing the caseload to 44,769. The total number of deaths, including comorbidities, is 1,147.
The opposition accused the TMC government of failing to manage the situation.
The decision of imposing the lockdown was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. It was decided that the lockdown would be clamped on Thursday and Saturday this week, Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said.
"COVID-19 is spreading fast, and there are areas where community transmission has been detected. After talking to experts, scientists, doctors, enforcement authorities, and the police, we decided to impose complete lockdown for two days every week in the entire state to break the chain," he said.
All offices and transport services will be closed on those two days, Bandyopadhyay said.
"This week, the total lockdown will be in force on Thursday and Saturday. This would be enforced alongside the ongoing broad-based containment approach. Next week, the shutdown will be clamped on Wednesday (July 29)," the home secretary said.
A review meeting will be held next Monday for further discussions on the matter.
Meanwhile, the admission of the state government that community transmission was reported from some areas triggered a political storm with opposition parties criticising the TMC regime for its failure to manage the COVID crisis.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said the state government must come clean on the list of communities and the areas where community transmission has started.
"We very well know that lockdown was not implemented in West Bengal during the initial months. In minority-dominated areas, no restriction was in place. This community transmission came due to the failure of the state government to implement lockdown," Sinha said.
Leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said the situation would have been much better had the lockdown been implemented strictly.
"When lockdown was implemented across the country, West Bengal was the only state which did not implement it properly. It was busy hiding figures," Chowdhury said.
CPI(M) legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty said the chief minister should come out with a reply on the reasons that led to community transmission.
The TMC termed the allegations as "baseless and reflection of political vindictiveness towards TMC".
"The West Bengal government did its best to control the situation. If you look at the national average, we are still far better. The contagion has spread due to whimsical and unplanned lockdown imposed by the Centre. This has only led to India gaining the number three position worldwide," TMC MP Santanu Sen said.
The total number of broad-based containment zones now stands at 819.
The state government has recently clubbed containment zones and the buffer zones around them to constitute a broad-based containment zones.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal government issued a notification directing that all bank branches in the state will remain closed on all Saturdays.
Presently, the banks remain closed only on second and fourth Saturdays and all Sundays.
According to a source in the bank union, over 2,000 employees have been affected by COVID-19 in the state.
The government also issued an advisory urging banks to provide services to customers on weekdays between 10 am and 2 pm.