Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered an extension of the night curfew in all cities and towns in the state till January 1, an official statement issued here said. Earlier, the decision to impose the night curfew (from 10 pm to 5 am) from December 1-15 was taken amid an apprehension of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
Taking cognizance of complaints of various violations of the COVID-related curbs at weddings and parties, Singh directed Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta to strictly enforce the restrictions at wedding venues and other places and slap penalties on the hosts in case of violations. He ordered a restriction of 100 people on indoor and 250 people on outdoor gatherings at marriage functions and parties in the state till January 1, the statement said. Earlier, the restriction was 200 for indoor gatherings and while there was no upper limit for the number of people at outdoor gatherings, directions were issued to ensure social distancing at such events.
Singh stressed the need to step up testing in the containment and micro-containment zones and ensure 100-per cent sampling. He also asked the health department to monitor the health of the farmers returning from the protest sites near Delhi in view of the risk to them due to the high caseload there.
Chairing a high-level COVID review meeting here, the chief minister said those above the age of 70 with comorbidities cannot be kept in home quarantine if adequate medical facilities are not available at home. Health Secretary Hussan Lal pointed out during the virtual meeting that a large number of COVID deaths were being reported from home-isolation cases.
To further check the COVID-related fatality, Singh ordered a thorough check of all the private hospitals in the state to ensure that only those with adequate "Level 3" infrastructure (to deal with critically-ill COVID patients) and manpower be allowed to admit coronavirus patients. Hospitals lacking such facilities should refer the patients to other hospitals, he said.
At the meeting, Singh also took stock of the state's readiness regarding the COVID-19 vaccine that will be rolled out in future. The statement said as Punjab gears up for the mega exercise, the chief minister directed the health department to incorporate the results of the recent second sero-survey in the state's strategy when the vaccine is rolled out so that the high-risk population is covered first.
He noted the state's readiness for the vaccine rollout in terms of a database of priority lists, the infrastructure for cold-chain management, identification and training of vaccinators etc. On the COVID situation in the state, Singh said though the declining positivity trend over the past three weeks is welcome, the fatality rate remains a matter of concern and directed the DGP to ensure strict compliance to the coronavirus-related safety protocols, including wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing.
The health secretary informed the meeting that around 35 lakh samples have been tested for the disease so far in the state, of which 1.5 lakh were found to be positive. "Though the second wave in Punjab has so far been mild, the health authorities are fully geared to tackle any eventuality," he said.
Lal noted that 87 per cent of the COVID victims in the state were over the age of 45, with about 50 per cent of the deaths taking place at private tertiary care centres. As of Thursday, Punjab had recorded a COVID death toll of5,007 while the infection count in the state was 1,58,556.
On the COVID vaccine issue, Singh said apart from vaccine safety and vaccination site safety, correct and timely information communication is critical to a successful rollout of the vaccine, which is expected to be available soon in India. Besides a state-level vaccine store, 22 district-level and 127 block-level stores are being prepared for the vaccine rollout in Punjab, which will also have 570 cold-chain points, he added.
Besides a walk-in freezer at Ferozepur, the Union government has decided to provide one more at Chandigarh, the chief minister said. The state has 1,165 "ice-lined refrigerators" and 1,079 deep freezers, according to the statement.
In line with the Centre's guidelines, the data of about 1.25 lakh healthcare workers (government and private) has been compiled by the state government for the first phase of vaccination, it said.