Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered a series of emergency measures, including the extension of the weekend lockdown in light of Covid-19 cases in the state. A night curfew from 7 pm to 5 am will also come into effect across all of Punjab's 167 cities and towns starting Friday.
Singh has also instructed authorities to enforce a total ban on all gatherings till August 31, with the exception of weddings and funerals.
Government and private offices in Punjab will now work at 50 per cent capacity till the end of this month as per directives issued by the CM during a video conference meeting with top officials. At present, Punjab is witnessing a rise in the detection of new cases and an increase in Covid-related fatalities.
In addition, CM Amarinder Singh has also directed officials to restrict public visitors in government offices and to encourage the use of an online grievance redressal system. This system has been significantly strengthened by the state government to minimise in-person contact and promote hassle-free online engagement.
In the five worst-affected districts of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and SAS Nagar (Mohali), restrictions on vehicular capacity have been imposed once again. This means that buses and other public transport in these districts will operate with 50 per cent capacity and private four-wheelers will not be allowed to carry more than three passengers per vehicle.
District Collectors in the five districts have been asked to permit only 50 per cent of non-essential shops to open on a daily basis in a bid to check crowding. Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala currently account for 80 per cent of active Covid-19 cases in Punjab.
CM asks DGP to crack whip on gatherings
The Chief Minister further directed DGP Dinkar Gupta to strictly enforce compliance of rules concerning the number of persons allowed to attend weddings and funerals while urging him to ensure a complete ban on political gatherings till August 31.
While asking the DGP Gupta to crack the whip on all political protests and gatherings, CM Amarinder Singh has asked his own party, the Congress to observe and enforce the ban strictly.
"Enough is enough," Captain Amarinder said, adding, "We need to be tough without affecting the state's economic activity."
Pointing to the 920 lives lost to the novel coronavirus in Punjab so far, the CM said, "Each death pains me, and the projections for the coming weeks are grim."
Punjab to test 30,000 samples for Covid-19 each day
The Punjab government has now decided to ramp up testing to test 30,000 samples for Covid-19 each day. As part of this move, at least 10 persons in the immediate circle of every positive patient will be tested.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan said one private hospital had to stop taking in patients after their anesthetist tested positive, while most others had anesthetists in the vulnerable age group of 55-60 years. Mahajan added that to maintain continuity of Covid treatment and care in private hospitals, anesthetists would need to be replaced with younger ones.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had recently met the Punjab health minister to discuss Covid-19 handling.
Captain Amarinder Singh agreed when he said, "We have to take them on board and extend all help while being strict in the enforcement of the fee cap and other restrictions."
With the four districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Ludhiana accounting for the majority of the 36,000+ cases in the state, contact tracing in these regions needs to be stepped up, Singh added.
Secretary (Health) Hussain Lal, in his presentation, asserted that while the number of tests had gone up to nearly 20,000, the positivity rate had come down slightly to 8.05 per cent for the week from August 11 to August 18, as against 9.31 per cent from August 3 to August 10.