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West Bengal to create Rs 200 crore fund to tackle coronavirus; theatres, stadiums to remain shut till March 31

KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced her government will create a Rs 200 crore fund to tackle the coronavirus outbreak and ordered closure of all cinema halls, stadiums and auditoriums till March 31 as a precautionary measure.

She also extended the closure of all educational institutions till April 15.

Banerjee said the state government would invoke the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 so that action could be taken against those who do not follow the safety precautions suggested by the authorities to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“We have decided to create a fund of Rs 200 crore to tackle this crisis. We also decided to offer Rs 5 lakh insurance to 10 lakh people involved in health hazard areas. They include doctors, nurses and personnel of the Army, the CRPF and the CISF,” the chief minister said.

She held a high-level meeting to review the situation arising out of the coronavirus outbreak.

The meeting was attended by government officials and those from railways and chambers of commerce.

“Around 3.24 lakh people have been screened in Bengal and we are keeping a close watch on 5,590 of them. A total of 59 people were tested for coronavirus and 58 tested negative. We are waiting for the test result of one person,” Banerjee told reporters after the meeting.

A call centre set up by the state government in this context has received 5,000 calls so far, she said.

As a precautionary measure, the government has also decided to extend the closure of all educational institutes, including Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres, till April 15, she added.

The state government had on Saturday ordered educational institutions to remain shut till March 30.

“Hostels will also be closed so that students can go home,” Banerjee said.

About invoking the Epidemic Diseases Act, the chief minister said, “We were not implementing this Act thinking that people will understand the situation if they are requested to follow our advice.”

“However, 10 suspected patients kept at an isolation ward of a hospital (in North 24 Parganas district) today expressed their unwillingness to stay there. So, we are implementing the Act so that people cooperate with the government if it decides to treat them,” she said.

She, however, added that her government will not be imposing prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Criminal Penal Code (CrPC).

Banerjee also asked private hospitals not to refuse any patient approaching them with symptoms of coronavirus.

On management at West Bengal’s international borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, she said, “We are working together with the central government on this. Most of the borders have been sealed.”

Asking the media to play a responsible role, Banerjee said the government has nothing to hide.

On whether rallies will be disallowed in the city, Banerjee said the advisory of the central government issued in this context will be followed.

She appealed to all shrines not to allow large gatherings.

“I’m grateful that the Belur Math has decided to stop allowing large gatherings inside the premises. I appeal to all the authorities of all temples, gurdwaras, mosques, churches to not to allow large gatherings,” she said.

Banerjee said she cancelled her administrative tour to Bolpur owing to the coronavirus situation.