KOLKATA: West Bengal’s COVID-19 tally rose to 15,40,258 on Wednesday as 646 more people tested positive for the infection, while seven fresh fatalities pushed the state’s coronavirus death toll to 18,325, a health bulletin said.

As many as 660 more people were cured of the disease, taking the recovery rate to 98.18 per cent.

The state now has 9,715 active cases, while 15,12,218 people have recovered from the disease to date.

West Bengal has thus far tested 1,64,94,077 samples for COVID-19, including 44,044 in the last 24 hours, it said, adding the positivity rate stood at 1.47 per cent.

The state has so far vaccinated 3,49,31,229 people, including 3,49,079 on Wednesday.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday announced that local train services will resume in the state as and when 50 per cent of the rural population gets vaccinated.

Banerjee also said that the state has received 3.75 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines thus far, including the ones it bought directly from the manufacturers, as against its requirement of 14 crore jabs.

She noted that 75 per cent of the population in Kolkata, and at least 80 per cent in Howrah have received the first dose, with her government initially focusing on the congested urban areas.

“Local train services will resume after 50 per cent vaccination is completed in the rural belts,” the chief minister told a press conference at state secretariat ‘Nabanna’.

The CM further pointed out that “extra caution” was being taken amid apprehensions that the third wave of the pandemic might have a greater impact on children and adolescents.

Banerjee, who held a review meeting during the day to take stock of development projects and discuss other issues with ministers and secretaries, said at least 46 lakh people have submitted applications to avail benefits of various welfare schemes under ‘Duare Sarkar’ (government at doorsteps) and Paray Samadhan(solution in locality) initiatives — the second edition of which commenced from Monday.

As part of the ‘Duare Sarkar’ initiative, launched by the Mamata Banerjee dispensation in December last year, camps were set up across the state to empanel names of people for government schemes.

The programme had drawn a huge response everywhere in the state, and is touted to have played a major role in ensuring TMC’s victory in assembly polls, held earlier this year.

Of the 46 lakh application submitted, 30 lakh were for availing benefits of “Lakshmir Bhandar” scheme , which has assured financial assistance to women, the CM said.

Amid reports that people were pouring in at the ‘Duare Sarkar’ camps, she asked everyone to maintain COVID-19 protocol.

“The camps, numbering thousands, will run for a month. We will extend the period, if necessary,” Banerjee asserted.

She warned people against “unscrupulous elements” who are taking money from people to get their names enrolled for the schemes.

Talking about the review meeting that she chaired, the feisty TMC leader said matters related to the loss incurred due to flood were discussed during the day.

A team of state ministers will leave for Delhi to meet the Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and members of the Niti Ayog.

“We will place four demands before them — Ghatal master plan, master plans for the Sundarbans and Digha, places that suffer extensive suffering damage owing to cyclone, and improvement of various dams and reservoirs of the DVC, including Tenughat and Panchet,” she said.

Banerjee had in the past held “unplanned” release of water from DVC dams responsible for floods.

Stressing that the state government has taken up the Lower Damodar Basin project worth Rs 3,000 crore for water supply management, she said that the team will also put forth its request for dredging of River Ganga in the vicinity of Farakka barrage.

The chief minister iterated that the Centre has not given any funds in the aftermath of cyclones Amphan, Fani, Yaas or Bulbul.

Contending that her government will not put up with any form of corruption, the TMC boss said, “Anyone found involved in sand, coal or cattle smuggling will not be spared. The police have been asked to take strict action against those involved, whether it be an official or a political leader from outside.”

“In Haldia, I know that BJP raises a lot of money,” the CM claimed.

She maintained that audit of ‘benami’ accounts in cooperative banks will be conducted.

“The state government can hold audits and money found in any ‘benami’ accounts will be transferred to the government exchequer as it is public money. Why will one particular person get to enjoy such money, it’s the common people who should benefit from it,” Banerjee said.

The CM stated that the name of Mother Dairy in the state will soon be changed to Bangla Dairy.

“We sell our milk produce under the Mother Dairy brand. The name will now be changed to Bangla Dairy; the chief secretary has been asked to take necessary steps in the matter,” she added.