Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday spoke to Punjab’s Congress MLAs through a video-conference about the state’s Covid fightback and said that certain relaxations in curbs were in the offing, but without lowering the state’s guard.
Amarinder informed MLAs that the Centre had indicated, based on various inputs and studies, that the rising trend in COVID-19 cases was likely to continue till July, a government statement said.
There was largely a consensus among the MLAs to continue with the “strictness” for another couple of weeks with “very limited relaxations” in certain areas. MLAs were also of the view that borders should remain sealed not just around the state but also among the districts and around the villages. Further, they said that Covid patients should be hospitalised/treated within their own district, to limit outside contact and exposure. The meeting agreed to use extreme caution in lifting restrictions.
In response to a question on the need for continuing the lockdown, the later said that the lockdown was necessary to delay the spread as far as possible and also in the hope of a vaccine.
Retaining migrant workers
On UP’s request to send back their migrant labourers after quarantining them in Punjab, the CM said he will convey to his counterpart there that this has to be done by his government. He, however, added that his government was making all efforts to retain migrant workers.“We need to look after them so that they do not leave Punjab, where they are needed to help out in the procurement operations as well as the industries that we are gradually opening up,” he said. Amarinder assured that there would be no shortage of bales to handle the bumper wheat crop.
Getting industry back on track
The CM once again reiterated that there would be no FIRs against owners/CEOs of industries in case of any incidence of Covid. PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar suggested allowing industries in rural areas to operate at night to prevent workers from mixing. He also suggested classification of Covid zones at the village level to ensure better management of the relaxations, as and when they come.
The issue of shortage of testing facilities, ventilators, relief ration kits was raised by many of the MLAs, with Pathankot MLA Amit Vij and Bhoa MLA Joginder Pal calling for more sampling. They also suggested books being made available to government school students as all were not in a position to attend online classes. They further called for free internet use and free of cost health facilities for the people amid this unprecedented crisis.
Gurdaspur MLA Barindermeet Singh Pahra said testing facilities should be made available at district level (at present, samples are being sent to Amritsar). Health Minister Balbir Sidhu, who represents Mohali, said since PPE use becomes difficult in summers, the department was exploring the option of building kiosks for testing, with the technicians remaining inside it.
Raj Kumar Verka (Amritsar MLA) was in favour of waiver of the utility bills of the poor. He and Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjeet also demanded health insurance cover also for the mediapersons and contractual/temporary safai workers operating on the frontlines.
Rana Gurjeet suggested that the excess milk lying with the dairies should be converted to dry milk powder for free distribution under PDS, as well as to others in need, including the middle class.
Sukhpal Singh Bhullar (Khemkaran MLA) suggested that even the “green zone” villages should be sealed during the relaxations, and no one retuning from outside should be allowed to enter before completing mandatory quarantine.
Meanwhile, former minister and Amritsar (East) MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu stayed away from the CM’s video-conference.
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