Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Thursday extended weekend lockdown, with daily night curfew from 7 pm to 5 am, to all 167 cities and towns.
Calling for a ‘war-like preparedness’ against Covid-19, he also ordered a ban on all gatherings except weddings and funerals across the state till August 31. The government and private offices will work at 50 per cent capacity till the end of this month.
Only 50 per cent non-essential shops will be allowed to open on a daily basis in worst-affected Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala and Mohali, the five districts carrying 80 per cent caseload. Buses and other public transport will operate with 50 per cent capacity in these five districts and private four-wheelers not allowed to carry more than three passengers.
Amarinder issued the directives during a virtual meeting held to review the Covid situation. Punjab has been witnessing a surge in Covid-19 cases and fatalities having reported 36,083 infections and 920 deaths till Wednesday.
Earlier, the weekend curfew was confined only to four cities including Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and Mohali while night curfew was imposed from 9 pm to 5 am.
While stopping short of announcing another lockdown, the CM indicated harsher measures after reviewing the situation again on August 31. He had earlier said that the Covid cases may hit the peak in state mid-September.
Amarinder directed DGP 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 month end.
“Enough is enough. We need to be tough without affecting the state’s economic activity. Each death pains me, and the projections for the coming weeks are grim,” Amarinder was quoted as saying.
He said the state was in an ‘health emergency’ situation, necessitating harsh measures, which might have to be further intensified in the coming days. 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.
The CM also ordered to increase the testing to 30,000 a day, with at least 10 persons in the immediate circle of every positive patient to be tested.
Directing the Health Department to supply ventilators, free of cost, and manpower, such as anesthetists to medical colleges and private hospitals that have witnessed an increase in Covid patients in the wake of cap on treatment rates.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan informed the meeting that tenders had been floated for the procurement of nine more RT-PCR machines and the same were expected by next week. She also stressed on increasing rapid antigen testing, as well as augmentation of level 3 bed capacity.
She said one private hospital had to stop taking in patients after their anesthetist tested positive, while most others had anesthetists in the vulnerable age group of 55-60 years. The IMA had met the state health minister to discuss the issue, she said, adding that to maintain continuity of Covid treatment and care in private hospitals the anesthetists would need to be replaced with younger ones.
Amarinder agreed, saying “we have to take them on board and extend all help, while being strict in enforcement of the fee cap and other restrictions.”
Health advisory expert group head Dr KK Talwar, earlier, in his presentation, pointed out that the last three-four days had witnessed 300+ patients at Level 3, with 48 on ventilators, up from 27 about 10 days ago. Though deaths per million in Punjab, at 30.8, was lower than India’s 39.9, the situation was grim as the state’s recovery rate at 62.9 per cent was lower than the nation’s 73.9 per cent.
With the four districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Ludhiana accounting for majority of the 36,000 plus cases, contact tracing in these regions needed to be stepped up, he added.
Secretary Health Hussain Lal, in his presentation, said while the number of tests had gone up to nearly 20,000, the positivity rate had come down slightly to 8.05 per cent for the week from August 11 to August 18, as against 9.31 per cent from August 3 to August 10.
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