TWO DAYS after pulling up the Punjab government for “diluting” lockdown restrictions by opening bookshops and AC/cooler outlets, the Centre, in a U-turn, advised all states to allow reopening of the same.
The state government had already allowed these to open last Saturday, but the Union Home Secretary had rapped the state, calling it a violation of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Punjab was the third state to be pulled up by the state after West Bengal and Kerala.
Following the rap, the state government had withdrawn the orders on Monday. Now, after the Union Home Secretary’s new order, the state has again directed its divisional commissioners, deputy commissioner, police commissioners, IGPs and SSPs to allow opening of bookshops and AC/cooler outlets.
After the GOI order, a senior functionary of the state government said, “Our stand is vindicated. We had taken the decision after thinking it through. The new academic session had started and parents were demanding books as several teachers had started teaching students online. The same was the case with shops dealing in fans, coolers and ACs. The temperature had started soaring and people were in need of these appliances. Hence, we had passed this order. We were the first state to impose restrictions and we have been implementing the curfew strictly. So, there was no reason for us to dilute the curfew.”
After the Centre’s guidelines, the state has also allowed treatment facilities for seeds and horticulture produce. The GOI has also allowed recharge facilities for mobile phones, bread factories, milk processing plants, dal mills and flour mills. The state government has also allowed these to function.
Patients to bear treatment cost in private hospitals
In Punjab, COVID-19 patients who choose to get treated at a private hospital will have to bear the cost, the department of health and family welfare stated on Tuesday evening. The order says that the hospitals cannot charge more than CGHS (NCR rates).
Earlier, the government had ordered that patients could get themselves treated from private hospitals despite objections from several quarters as it was suggested that there should only be separate COVID hospitals and the patients should not be allowed to go anywhere as these could become spread-zones.
Punjab has released Rs 110 crore for COVID relief so far. Moreover, Rs 110 crore has been released to help daily wage labourers at Rs 3,000 per month. The amount has been credited in their accounts. “There is no budget as such set aside for COVID-19. We have taken a decision to provide for complete demand for Covid management on priority,” a government official said.
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