Coronavirus (COVID-19): SETTING THE stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s video-conference Saturday with chief ministers to discuss exit strategies after the 21-day national coronavirus lockdown period ends on April 14, Punjab became the second state after Odisha to announce that it would extend the restrictions till the month-end.
Punjab was among the early states to impose a lockdown, on March 22, two days before the central government imposed restrictions nationwide to contain the outbreak.
On Friday, the state government said in a statement that the Cabinet decision to extend the lockdown till May 1 was taken to check community spread and prevent overcrowding at mandis. It said that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will convey the decision to the Prime Minister Saturday.
While Odisha had said Thursday that the curbs after April 14 could be less stringent in rural areas to facilitate farm activities, officials in Punjab said the state would start procuring wheat from April 15 under strict conditions of social distancing.
In other key decisions, officials said, the Chief Minister told the Cabinet, which met through a video-conference, that he would request former Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to help the state devise a strategy torevive its economy after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
With the state’s case count reaching 151 Friday, a jump of 21 over the last 24 hours, the Cabinet also approved the Punjab Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Ordinance 2020, to enable private hospitals to treat coronavirus cases.
“It is necessary for private hospitals to join the battle against COVID-19,” an official quoted the Chief Minister as telling the Cabinet.
The law will provide for registration and regulation of private establishments to ensure compliance with protocols and transparency in functioning. It will be applicable to all clinical establishments with a minimum capacity of 50 beds, officials said.
Before the Cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister had claimed that the state was witnessing community transmission, as most of the 27 cases reported Thursday did not have a travel history.
Incidentally, a paper released by the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) on Thursday, on surveillance of patients with severe acute respiratory illnesses (SARI), as one indicator of community transmission, found a single coronavirus positive case among 158 tested (a rate of 0.6%) between February 15 and April 2. In contrast, Haryana tested 161 SARI cases and found four positive cases (2.5%).
The state government, meanwhile, decided to set up a multi-disciplinary task force to formulate an exit strategy for “gradual relaxation” of the lockdown, and submit its report within 10 days.
The Cabinet also resolved to urge the Central government to establish an advanced centre of virology in Punjab with an investment of Rs 500 crore, with the state to offer land free of cost.
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