Shopping malls, restaurants and other establishments reopened in West Bengal on Monday after a gap of over two months with the state government allowing further relaxations as part of “Unlock-1”, the first phase of a calibrated exit from the coronavirus-induced lockdown across the country. The Mamata Banerjee-led government had already eased curbs in the state from June 1, allowing places of worship to reopen and full operationalisation of the jute, tea and construction sectors.
However, it had officially extended the lockdown in the state till June 15. People came out on the streets of Kolkata in large numbers, with many flouting the social-distancing norms. Traffic snarls were reported from several areas of the metropolis as government offices started operating with a 70-per cent attendance and most private offices and establishments recommenced near-normal functioning.
Though government buses were out in full strength, private buses were less in number, adding to the woes of commuters, as other public modes of transport like metro railway and local trains are yet to recommence operations.
“Around 25 to 30 per cent of the 6,000-odd private buses that ply in the city and suburbs are back on the roads,” Joint Council of Bus Syndicates’ general secretary Tapan Banerjee said.
A mall official in the Nagerbazar area said standard operating procedures (SOPs) are in place such as bringing down the seating capacity at food courts by 50 per cent and allowing only one customer per 75 square feet in each shop.
“We will have to strike a balance between those who come for shopping and the ones who are interested in only loitering around in malls,” the official said.
Shop owners were seen standing in queues at several malls in the city to undergo health and safety checks. Most shrines and religious places have reopened in the state from June 1. Meanwhile, several industrial units in West Bengal reported a low turnout of workers, as a large number of labourers have returned to their home states in the last few weeks amid the lockdown.