Punjab’s Amritsar has maximum number of COVID-19 cases in the state. Till Friday, there were nearly 290 cases in the district. But the district is not classified as a red zone by Union Ministry of Health. Punjab’s total tally was 1,731 at 8 pm on Friday evening.
On the other hand, Patiala, now ranking eighth as far as total number of COVID-19 in the state, is marked a red zone in the categorisation of the Centre. Only three districts are red zones in the state, according to Centre.
Besides Patiala, Ludhiana and Jalandhar are also categorised as red zones. The Centre released the list of red, green and orange zones on May 1. Ironically, a day earlier, on April 30, Punjab had recorded a biggest single-day spike, in three digits, for the first time. As many as 105 persons had tested positive with 98 of them being the returnees from Hazoor Sahib, Kota and Jaisalmer.
The next day, on May 1, as many as 167 cases were added taking the total number to 542. The cases were reported from most of the 22 districts by then, but Centre’s list had only three districts as red zones, where the government has been directed to sharpen efforts to contain the disease by ensuring strict lockdown.
But the Centre’s list is not serving Punjab’s purpose. And Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has been forced to demand that Centre should leave the categorisation to the states. Amarinder raised it first during the video-conference with Congress leaders two days ago.
Punjab has been arguing that the COVID-19 situation has been changing fast on the ground and allowing states to define the containment areas and then sharpen efforts accordingly would be easier and more effective.
After Amarinder, former AICC president Rahul Gandhi too raised the issue in his presser in Delhi on Friday. He mentioned Punjab’s example and said the categorisation of areas for COVID-19 spread should be left to the states and there should be decentralisation in the decisions and execution of strategy.
The Centre had also listed 15 Punjab districts as orange zones. These included Mohali, Pathankot, Mansa, Taran Taran, Amritsar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Faridkot, Sangrur, Nawanshahar, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Moga, Gurdaspur and Barnala.
As Amritsar in orange zone is now the COVID-19 capital of Punjab having maximum cases, Tarn Taran has more cases than another red zone, Ludhiana district. On Friday, Tarn Taran’s count was 157 compared to Ludhiana at 125.
Mohali and Patiala were at 95 each, Gurdaspur was at 91, Sangrur was 115. The number of cases in Nawanshahar were 103. Now, all the 22 districts in Punjab have reported COVID-19 cases and there is no green zone if these cases are any indication.
“The strategy should now be on having containment zones and sealing them. We cannot close down the entire district. This decision should be left on the state government,” said an official of the government. Ropar has the minimum number of 16 cases in the state. It is now the only district with less than 20 cases.
An official of Punjab government said that the Centre was not sharing the criterion of identifying zones with the states. “They tell us that they do not just go by the numbers. They factor in many other points including the size, population of the district, testing capacity, number of beds etc. Also, the brief is that a state cannot dilute the directions of Centre on zones. They can make these more stringent.”
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