Amid rising coronavirus cases, the Punjab government on Thursday announced a weekend lockdown in all 167 cities and towns in the state and increased the night curfew period by two hours.
The announcement came on a day the state saw its biggest single-day spike of 1,741 cases, taking the tally to 37,824. Thirty-seven more fatalities were also recorded in the state and the death toll now stands at 957.
The weekend lockdown, which was in force earlier only in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala, has now been extended to all the cities and towns in the state. The night curfew will be from 7pm till 5am instead of the earlier 9pm to 5am duration in all cities and towns. The measures will come into effect from Friday.
As part of emergency measures, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also ordered a complete ban on all gatherings, except weddings and funerals, across the state till August 31, said an official release.
The government and private offices will work at 50% capacity till the end of this month, as per the directives issued by the CM during a video conference with senior officials to review the COVID situation in the state.
Singh called for "war-like preparedness" to deal with the massive spike.
The latest measures came as the state has been witnessing a sharp surge in the number of coronavirus cases for the past several days. Till Thursday evening, the state's coronavirus tally stood at 37,824 cases with 957 deaths.
Singh also directed officials to restrict public visitors in government officials and encourage the use of online grievance redressal system, which has been strengthened by the state government to minimise in-person contact with hassle-free online engagement.
In the five worst-affected districts of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and Mohali, restrictions on vehicular capacity have been imposed again with buses and other public transport to operate with 50% occupancy and private four-wheelers not allowed to carry more than three passengers per vehicle.
Singh has also directed the deputy commissioners of these five districts to allow only 50% of the non-essential shops to open on a daily basis to check crowding. The five districts currently account for 80% of the active caseload in the state.
Singh also directed Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta to strictly enforce compliance of rules with regard to the number of persons allowed to attend weddings and funerals, and also to ensure total ban on political gatherings till August 31, when the situation will be reviewed.
He also asked the DGP to crack the whip on all political protests and gatherings, and asked his own party state leadership to enforce the ban strictly.
"Enough is enough," Singh said, adding that the government needs to be tough without affecting the state's economic activity.
Pointing to the 957 coronavirus deaths reported in the state so far, he said, "Each death pains me, and the projections for the coming weeks are grim."
Singh also underlined the need to promote public participation in creating awareness on the measures to check the spread of COVID-19. He asked the health department to promote public participation by involving all other departments, NGOs and local politicians to educate the people.
Singh said the state was in a "health emergency" situation, necessitating such harsh measures that might have to be further intensified in the coming days to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Though the cases were currently concentrated mainly in urban areas, rural areas were also witnessing an increase, he said, adding that if needed, travel restrictions may have to be imposed.
(with inputs from PTI)