KOLKATA: The state recorded more than three hundred Covid-19 positive cases in a single day for the third consecutive time on Thursday, taking the tally to 1,000 cases in just four days. While 368 cases were recorded on Thursday, the number had been 340 and 397 on the previous two days, confirming fears of a faster transmission across the state with the gradual withdrawal of lockdown. The rate climbed up to 2.8% on Thursday from the May 27 rate of 2.5%. Experts apprehend that the relaxation of social distancing norms after Amphan and the arrival of migrant labourers have had an impact. The number of cases is set to cross 7,000 on Friday.
The previous 1,000 cases had been recorded in five days. While the number of tests has been steadily going up which has pulled up the number of positive cases as well, there has been a definite spurt in positivity rate over the last fortnight, said experts. “This is a result of the lockdown withdrawal and influx of migrants. There could be thousands of asymptomatic carriers who have now mingled with the rest of the population and the fallout will be a faster-than-ever spread of the pandemic. This could be the worst phase,” said RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) consultant Arindam Biswas.

Despite the number of tests crossing 9,000 a day around a fortnight ago, positivity rate hovered around 2.5%-2.6%. Then, Amphan struck and the distancing norms suffered. Ever since, the positivity rate has been spiralling up, touching 2.8% on Thursday. It will now climb higher since the curbs will only get relaxed from now on, said pulmonologist Dhiman Ganguly. More tests, return of migrant labourers and breaking of social distancing norms have combined to contribute to the sharp spurt in cases, said Ganguly.
“A good chunk of migrant workers seems to be testing positive and spreading the virus further. Also, people have become very relaxed with the lockdown and social distancing norms with the passage of time. This is for people who are poor as they need to feed the family. But even well-to-do people who have started violating precautionary measures,” said Ganguly who is also part of the expert committee on Covid-19 set up by the state.
Virologist Amitava Nandi said post-Amphan, in addition to the protests across the city, many people in the affected areas were put in camps together. Since the incubation period of the virus is 14 to 20 days, more people will now be testing positive for Covid, felt Nandi. “Also many migrant labourers seem to have gone home straight or fled quarantine centres. Many of these people could be asymptomatic carriers. Adding to it is the opening up of public transport,” said Nandi.
It had taken the state around a month and ten days to record the first 1,000 cases. The next 1,000 were recorded in 11 days. The last thousand were recorded in four days.



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A woman bargains for a face shield

KOLKATA: More than 50% hawkers were back in Gariahat pavement on Thursday. But according to an agreement with police, June 8 was the official date for resuming business.
According to a hawker union leader in Gariahat, patience ran out for hawkers in the Gariahat-Ballygunge belt after the deadline for resuming the business got delayed from June 1 to June 8.
“At first, we were told that we could resume business from May 27. Later, the date was changed to June 1. We could persuade our hawkers to be patient till May 31. But when that date was changed again, while our counterparts in Hatibagan started their business afresh, we could not stop them from returning back,” said the hawker union leader.
A visit to Gariahat revealed that a large number of hawkers were back on the pavements from Basanti Devi College to Ballygunge AC market and from Golpark to Gariahat intersection. The number of hawkers, however, were much less when compared to pre-lockdown period.
Gautam Das, a hawker who sells sun glasses in Gariahat, expressed satisfaction that he had a good business during the day.
“On Thursday, my sales were much higher than Wednesday. I had no option but to return after more than two months of financial distress,” said Das.
Another hawker, Ashim Dutta, who sits next to Das and sells readymade garments said his sales were minimal. “I could not sell according to my expectation. Customers are yet to come to terms with the gradual unlock. ,” Dutta said.
Dutta also made it clear that he would have to strive hard to sell his wares to feed his family. A section of hawkers, however, played hide and seek when cops from Gariahat came near the spot since they were yet to get an NOC.
At Hatibagan, sales slowly started picking up since Monday, when a group of hawkers resumed their business. “Our sales are registering a slow growth since Monday. We will have to wait for some more days to resume usual business,” said a hawker union leader.
At New Market-Esplanade area, a section of hawkers are gearing up to resume business from coming Monday, said sources.



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KOLKATA: Visiting a restaurant in the Covid-19 era is set to be a more ‘contact-less’ and digital experience than ever before. Set to reopen on June 8, most city restaurants are gearing up with a new set of norms that will mark the entry of virtual menu cards, disposable crockery and cutlery, fumigation of guests’ shoes, thermal checks and introduction of a compulsory briefing for each guest to ensure compliance of safety rules. While the number of seats will go down by 30%-40% on an average to ensure social distancing, some are planning to live-stream their cooking process on giant TV screens to gain customers’ confidence.
Even as tables are being rearranged in several restaurants to stick to the new norms, almost all of them have rejected the conventional menu card. It will either be replaced by a menu list sent to the customers’ WhatsApp number or will be displayed on a tablet screen. Some will display the menu on disposable table mats.

At Oudh 1590, menu will be sent to customers over WhatsApp after they have gone through a temperature check and their shoes have been fumigated. “Each guest will be briefed on the safety steps and the precautions that they should be taking during the visit. Our seating capacity will be reduced to 50% to maintain distance between tables,” said owner Shiladitya Chaudhury.
That apart, the restaurant will be using disposable crockery and cutlery — which could be charged — as a safety measure. “People may not be confident about the hygiene of cutlery, so disposables are better. Apart from thermal checks and sanitizers, we will be restricting contact between our staff and guests. Orders must be placed in one go and our staff will only carry the food to the table but won’t serve them,” added Chaudhury.
Specialty Restaurants chairman Anjan Chatterjee, though, remains wary. He said his chain of restaurants is ready with all safety protocols but doubts whether he will at all open them to guests. “In restaurants, the peak dinner time is between 8.30pm and 11pm. If malls shut down at 9pm, we can only do half the usual business. That may not be viable given our overhead costs,” he said.
At Song Hai in central Kolkata, customers will have the menu list on their WhatsApp and they can opt for disposable cutlery, though the crockeries will be reusable. Bills, too, will be sent on their phones. “People could be wary of sharing forks and spoons. We will be charging for them and live-stream our cooking so that guests can be sure about our hygiene standards,” said owner Sudesh Poddar.
Mughlai chain Aminia will reduce seating capacity by 30%. “We are creating a digital menu and payment solution for customers. Those who do not have smartphones will receive a disposable printed menu. Our waiters will use masks and gloves and there will be temperature check and sanitisers at the gate,” said owner Kabir Azhar.



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KOLKATA: Rijit Kumar couldn’t be happier when he found a ‘liquor section’ on his food delivery app while ordering lunch on his 15th wedding anniversary on Thursday. Like Kumar, thousands of tipplers in the city couldn’t believe that ordering their favourite drinks had finally come to their fingertips. The result was obvious — food delivery majors got an ‘overwhelming response’ in Kolkata on the first day of doorstep liquor service.
TOI was the first to report on Thursday that food delivery majors Swiggy and Zomato, specialised liquor delivery app HipBar and retail chain Spencer’s Retail have signed an agreement with Bevco, the state’s wholesale and distribution arm, for starting doorstep delivery of alcoholic beverages.

All four players have started offering their services on their mobile apps and websites by enrolling interested people of permissible age across Kolkata and Siliguri to begin with.
For Spencer’s Retail, it was a welcome relief. The head (east) of the retail giant, Kaushik Ganguly, said: “We have received a good number of orders on the first day. The number is expected to grow in the coming days.” Sources said Swiggy had also got a positive response while Zomato noted that it was too early to comment.
Stakeholders of the alcohol trade in the city believe that this initiative will not just open a new avenue for liquor sale in the midst of the Covid-related restrictions, but would also indulge the elderly, physically challenged, busy and shy people to order their preferred bottle with ease. “This service will no doubt help maintain social distance and let you avoid prying eyes,” said Animesh Saha, a liquor merchant in north Kolkata.
For many, the new sales channel offers such a hassle-free option that they don’t mind shelling out a bit extra for getting their booze. Rajrupa Banerjee, a brand manager in a top FMCG firm, said: “It’s easy. I don’t have to depend on anyone now, even if it means paying some extra money to the e-delivery executives.” Mainak Sarkhel, an IT executive, ordered four bottles of beer, for which he was charged a delivery fee of Rs 100. “Simply put, people who cannot stand in the queue for whatsoever reason got a reason to cheer, ” said Apurba Santra, a floor manager of a wine shop in Jadavpur.
Ranojoy Pramanik of S K Pramanik, an off-shop, got first liquor order within five minutes of registering for HipBar. “I am planning to register my shop and my bar ‘Booze’ for Swiggy as well. I did not expect such response on the very first day,” Pramanik added.
A Swiggy spokesperson said, “We will expand our services to 24 other cities across the state.” Lauding the government move, Siddharth Wadia, director & GM (IMENA Region) of Jack Daniel’s whiskey-maker Brown-Forman, said: “It will definitely help in ensuring social distancing and easing crowd at liquor shops. Our experience in other markets tells us that home delivery of alcohol is a feasible and a safe channel.”



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