Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday warned NRIs and foreign travellers of strict action, including impounding of passports, in case they were found hiding their travel history.
Chairing the first Cabinet meeting during the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chief Minister said there could be no compromise on this issue and those found hiding their travel history from police/health department personnel would be dealt with strictly. “We will take away their passports too,” he warned.
Amarinder also authorised extension for all retiring Health Department employees by three months, as proposed by Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh.
Procurement plan by April 8
The CM directed the DGP Dinkar Gupta to finalise a comprehensive security plan to ensure smooth procurement of the wheat grain, while directing purchase centres to notify details of procurement arrangements by April 7-8, 2020.
Details of procurement arrangements would be notified by April 8, the Cabinet decided.
The CM said all purchase centers should cater to COVID preventive measures, and also for food, water, shelter and medical requirements for those required in these centers. It was decided that arhtiyas would be paid within 48 hours and they will be asked pay farmers within the next 48.
To stagger harvesting, combines will be allowed to operate through the day, from 6 am and 7 pm. The state government is working with arhtiyas and sheller owners to add 3000 purchase centres this year and all shellers will also be converted into temporary mandis. A total of 1,820 purchase centres will be available for procurement.
Getting ready to handle 20,000 cases
A government statement the Cabinet meeting said that the state was preparing to handle 20,000 cases. It added that 5,000 isolation beds had been identified, of which 2,500 are already operational. Also, buildings, including hostels, are being taken over and isolation facilities. Twenty industries have been identified for manufacturing of PPE kits and N95 masks, and five of these have already been approved. Another half a dozen industries have been identified for the manufacture of low-cost ventilators, it added.
Enough PPEs, says Health Minister
The Cabinet was told that there were enough PPEs for the health staff. Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that 1,000 PPEs were being made available at each government hospital.
Health cover for frontline workers
Punjab Cabinet also decided on a health insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh each for the police personnel and sanitation workers in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, on the lines of that announced for health workers by the Centre.
Nod for spot purchases
The Cabinet also authorised a committee headed by Addiction Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to do quick price discovery for all purchases related to COVID-19 management and containment, and make purchases on urgent basis.
The committee has been authorised to make spot purchases and exigency procurements, bypassing normal procedures, in exercise of emergency powers under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005.
Rapid testing kits soon
The Health Department said once the rapid testing kits and final guidelines come in from the Centre , rapid tests will begin in the state to speed up the identification of positive cases. Rapid testing will be done for symptomatic and asymptomatic cases at all the hotspots, while symptomatic cases will be similarly tested in the non-hot spot areas. The department has already started community testing in hotspots, the Cabinet was further informed.
Private hospitals warned
Taking serious note of shutdown of operations by several private hospitals, the Cabinet decided on strict action against such hospitals, with the Chief Minister suggesting that the Health Department should cancel the licences of hospitals refusing to treat COVID-19 patients. Terming it a cowardly act, the Chief Minister said they cannot go into hiding at such a critical time.
Tabligh event fallout
Contact tracing of the Nizamuddin returnees was being done on an aggressive scale and 192 persons from the list of 255 received by the state had already been tested and isolated, the Health Department told the Cabinet. In addition, tracking was being done for all the foreign returned, as well as high-risk categories such as healthcare professionals, police.
So far, contact tracing had been done for 1,600, including 846 high-risk personnel and of them, 34 had tested positive.
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