A day after announcing stricter lockdown for weekends and public holidays to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Punjab government on Friday said inter-district movement will be allowed only with e-passes, except for medical emergency, and all non-essential shops and services will be closed on Sundays.
However, shops dealing with essential commodities and services will be allowed to operate on all days, according to new guidelines issues here on Friday.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh approved the detailed weekend and holiday restriction guidelines, reiterating that his government would take hard decisions, wherever and whenever needed, to prevent the community spread of COVID-19 in the state.
According to the new guidelines, shops of essential commodities/services shall remain open on all days till 7 pm.
Other shops, whether standalone or in malls, shall remain closed on Sundays, while they can open till 5 pm on Saturdays, as per the guidelines, which also say that respective district authorities will ensure strict compliance to these timings.
The latest guidelines are in addition to those notified earlier by the state government for Lockdown 5.0/Unlock 1.0, and will remain in force on weekends and gazette holidays till further orders.
Restaurants (for take home/home delivery only) and liquor shops will also continue to be open till 8 pm on all days, as per the guidelines.
In addition to the Sunday closure, the District Magistrates may choose, in consultation with the respective market associations, to order closure of the non-essential shops on any other day of the week, especially in the high-risk areas where coronavirus cases are high, as per the fresh guidelines.
Inter-district movement shall be allowed with e-passes, which will be issued only for essential works, the guidelines say, but no pass shall be required for travel in medical emergency.
Further, e-passes will also be required for marriage functions and will be issued only to 50 specific persons, as per the guidelines.
Expressing grave concern over the spiralling COVID-19 cases in the country, particularly in neighbouring Delhi, the chief minister once again appealed to the people of Punjab to strictly adhere to the social-distancing norms and mandatorily wear masks.
The situation demanded stringent compliance with all the restrictions, he stressed, adding that though the condition in the state was relatively in control, his government was not ready to take any chances, given the escalating trend of the infections.
During a COVID-19 preparedness review meeting on Thursday, the chief minister had said his government's focus was on saving the lives of Punjabis even if that meant taking tough measures, particularly in the light of the grave projections of the pandemic peaking over the next two months
He had ordered stricter lockdown on weekends and public holidays.
The decision was taken amid apprehensions of community spread of COVID-19 and projections indicating that the pandemic peak in the state was still two months away.