Amid apprehensions of community spread of Covid, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered stricter lockdown on the weekends and public holidays with movement to be restricted to e-passes holders.
All citizens, except medical staff and essential service providers, would be required to download e-passes from the COVA app, the Chief Minister directed at a virtual meeting to review the pandemic situation and the state’s preparedness to handle further spread.
Industry, however, will be allowed to function normally on all days, said the Chief Minister, while asking Director General of Police (DGP) Dinkar Gupta to ensure strict implementation of these directives to prevent the gathering of large crowds.
The Chief Minister said such tough measures were necessitated on account of the spiralling Covid cases across the world.
Stringent curbs could help delay the peak for as long as possible, he added, pointing out that with no early vaccine or treatment in sight, strict protocols was the only way to fight the pandemic.
Even as he warned of the pandemic worsening in the coming days and weeks, the Chief Minister also asked medical and health experts to consider the imposition of strict conditions, including mandatory testing certification, for entrants from Delhi, where the situation had assumed alarming proportions.
On average, 500-800 vehicles are coming to Punjab from the national capital every day, the DGP informed in the meeting.
A decision on stricter curbs on those coming from Delhi will be taken after a review by the experts, an official spokesperson said after the meeting.
Pointing out that many of those who had come from outside had behaved irresponsibly and had not reported to the health authorities, the Chief Minister said tough measures would have to be taken where ever needed, as the spike was still continuing and was expected to escalate in the days ahead.
The Chief Minister suggested that since it normally takes three-four days for the virus to show up, those coming from outside should be tested after a week and in the meantime, they should be strictly asked to home quarantine themselves.
He also directed the DGP to ensure strict implementation of the home quarantine.
The DGP said 550 flying squads of the police were enforcing the quarantine.
The Chief Minister’s directions came even as the doubling rate in the state worsened from 22 days on May 31 to 15 days on June 10, showing a progressive decline day by day.
Though significantly longer than the national average, the doubling period decline was a matter of anxiety, said the Chief Minister.
Expressing concern, the Chief Minister said there was no scope for complacency in the state’s battle against Covid.
The state government’s efforts would need to be scaled up further, particularly in view of the Health Department’s projections suggesting the peak of the pandemic had yet to hit Punjab, and it could happen towards the end of August if the doubling period continues to come down as per the current trend.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister also stressed the need to fine people for not wearing masks and not observing precautions against Covid-19.
“I feel sad that we need to fine our people for not wearing masks & not observing other precautions against #Covid19,” he informed in a tweet.
“(The) government alone cannot win the fight against #Covid19 & I seek support of all. Don’t take any flu-like symptom lightly and see your doctor immediately.”
A Rs 500 penalty is imposed in the state for not wearing a mask in public places, while a Rs 2,000 penalty for violating the home quarantine instructions. For spitting in public places, the fine is Rs 500.
For non-payment of fine by the violator, it is attracting legal action under Section 188 of the IPC as per regulations framed under the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897.
Wheat for Migrants
The Chief Minister also urged Union Minister of Consumer Affairs Ram Vilas Paswan for additional allocation of 14,144 metric tonnes of wheat, along with 1,414 metric tonnes of pulses, for two months for distribution to the migrant labour and poor non-NFSA residents of the state.
This step would be instrumental in incentivising the workers to return to work for their livelihood, besides fully reviving the industrial activity, said the Chief Minister.
In a letter to the Union Minister, Amarinder Singh said this initiative on the part of the Centre was necessary as the loss of wages for the past few months had severely crippled the purchasing power of the migrants and the poor non-NFSA citizens.
Pertinently, the Central government had allocated 14,144 metric tonnes of wheat and 1,015 metric tonnes of pulses for distribution to migrants and non-NFSA beneficiaries under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme.
The distribution of these stocks is going on in the state and is expected to be completed within the next 10-15 days.