Amid apprehensions of community spread of Covid-19 and projections indicating that the peak of the pandemic in the state is still two months away, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered stricter curbs for weekends and public holidays, with movement to be restricted to e-passes holders.
Sources said the decision was taken amid reports that people had started taking the pandemic lightly and were visiting others on weekends and holidays. To prevent those gatherings, it was better to enforce movement restriction.
The government will come out with detailed guidelines on Friday, said a functionary, as it will have to take a decision on opening of markets, malls and shops besides other commercial activities.
Industry, however, will be allowed to function normally on all days, said the chief minister, while asking DGP Dinkar Gupta to ensure strict implementation of these directives to prevent gathering of large crowds.
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 video conference meeting to review the pandemic situation and the state’s preparedness to handle further spread.
Amarinder said such tough measures were necessitated on account of the spiraling 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 were the only way to fight the pandemic, a government statement said.
Even as he warned of the pandemic worsening in the coming days and weeks, Amarinder also asked medical and health experts to consider imposition of strict conditions, including mandatory testing certification, for entrants from Delhi, where the situation has assumed alarming proportions. On an average, 500-800 vehicles are coming to Punjab from the national capital every day, the DGP said at the meeting.
A decision on stricter curbs on those coming from Delhi will be taken after a review by experts, a government statement said.
Pointing out that many coming from outside had “behaved irresponsibly” and not reported to the health authorities, the chief minister said tough measures would have to be taken where needed, as the spike was still continuing and was expected to escalate in the days ahead.
He suggested that since it normally takes 3-4 days for symptoms to show, those coming from outside should be tested after a week and in the meantime they should be strictly asked to home quarantine. He also directed the DGP to ensure strict implementation of the home quarantine. The DGP said 550 flying squads of the Punjab Police were enforcing the same.
Referring to complaints received on social media and through other channels of private hospitals charging exorbitant sums for Covid hospitalisation and care, the chief minister directed the health department to ensure strict application of CGHS rates. All data on availability of beds etc should be put in public domain, he added.
The chief minister’s directions came at a time when the doubling rate in the state has gone from 22 on May 31 to 15 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 CM.
Expressing concern over the large number of people coming from outside the state, even though the positive cases among them were not many, 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 that 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.
Early diagnosis and increased testing was the key to tackling the crisis under Mission Fateh, health department officials said at the meeting, underlining the need for doubling of testing in the next one month and close monitoring of the densely populated areas. Four more testing labs were in the pipeline for being operationalised, the chief minister was informed.
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