As Covid-19 cases continue to surge rapidly across the country, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered stricter restrictions across the state beginning Tuesday, April 20.
According to the fresh restrictions, night curfew timings have been extended from 8 pm to 5 am, and all bars, cinema halls, gyms, spas, coaching centres and sports complexes will remain closed across all districts. Restaurants and hotels will be open only for takeaway and home delivery from Monday to Saturday.
The new restrictions will remain in effect till April 30, announced the chief minister.
The state government also reduced rates of RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) Covid-19 testing with by private labs to Rs 450 and Rs 300 respectively (with additional charges for home collection of the samples).
Gatherings of more than 20 persons, including for weddings/cremations, have also been prohibited across the state, with prior approval of the district administration needed for all gatherings of more than 10 persons, except for cremation.
Along with the restrictions imposed earlier, all malls, shops and markets across the state also will remain closed on Sunday. All weekly markets have also ordered to be shut down.
The chief minister directed the Police department to strictly enforce the restrictions, taking support of civil society organisations wherever needed.
Chairing a high level virtual meeting to review the Covid-19 situation in the state, CM Amarinder Singh ordered that all people flying into Punjab should carry a negative RT-PCR of not more than 72 hours ago, else undergo RAT testing at the airport.
The chief minister also said that those who had attended any large gathering (religious/political/social) will be mandatorily home quarantined for 5 days and tested as per protocol. He reiterated his appeal to all religious, social and political leaders to desist from organising large gatherings, encourage vaccination and motivate people for Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, especially wearing of masks and avoiding gatherings.
He directed the state transport department to restrict the number of people in buses/taxis and autos to 50% of the capacity. Singh also directed Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) testing booths to be set up at bus stands and railway stations and get all passengers checked.
The chief minister also ordered postponement of the recruitment exams for Patwaris and directed for Medical Education department to hold online examination for 1st, 2nd and 3rd year MBBS/BDS/BAMS and 1st year Nursing students. He further said that military hospitals in the cantonments had assured the state government of all possible help to tackle the surge, while private hospitals had already been directed to reserve 75% beds for Covid-19 patients.
While reviewing the situation in private and government hospitals, the Chief Minister directed 75% reservation of L-3 facilities in all private hospitals providing critical Covid-19 care. He said that no elective surgeries should be conducted in any government or private hospitals till May 15 and all OPD patients must be tested, besides encouraging them to get vaccinated.
The 104 Helpline will also be made functionable 24X7 to provide information on bed availability in government and private hospitals. Oxygen requirement and availability will be strictly monitored and ensured for both government and private hospitals by a Committee comprising PSIC, Direction Industry and MD, PHSC, while private hospitals will be supported in supply of essential medicines such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab etc, for which MD, PHSC shall be the nodal officer. All elective surgeries in medical colleges also stand postponed as of now.
The containment/micro-containment strategy was left to the DCs to decide, depending on the situation in their respective zones or areas. The chief minister also ordered ramping-up of tracing, and directed recruitment of manpower if needed, to handle the emergency situation. Health Minister Balbir Sidhu informed the meeting that DCs have been given Rs 1 crore each from SDRF for emergency use.
State Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan said that cops were being placed at the disposal of the Health Department, along with Education Department personnel including teachers, for more aggressive tracing of contacts of corona positive persons.
Health Secretary Hussan Lal said the state’s positivity rate was static at around 7.8% but had shown a quantum jump thereafter, going up to 12.6% on April 15, with Mohali being the worst-hit at 36.53%. The spike, he said, could be attributed to the new variant, along with people coming back from large gatherings from outside Punjab.
The figure was expected to go up further with more testing, he said, adding that by May 5, the state was projected to report 6,000 cases daily if urgent measures were not implemented in districts of Ludhiana, SAS Nagar (Mohali), Jalandhar , Amritsar and Patiala, which would be the drivers of the spike.
Lockdown in Mohali on Wednesday
Mohali, along with the rest of the tri-city, will remain under complete lockdown on Wednesday, on the occasion of Ram Navami, to avoid gatherings amid the surging Covid-19 cases in the region, announced by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh during the high-level Covid-19 review meet on Monday.
The chief minister said he had received a request from Chandigarh UT advisor for a lockdown in Mohali, as part of a lockdown in the entire tri-city, and a notification would be issued on the same. He also appealed to people across all other districts to avoid gatherings and large celebrations during the festival, in view of the spike in cases.