Coronavirus (COVID-19): Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Tuesday said that he has been informed by the experts that the COVID-19 curve would not flatten in India before the month of September, adding that it was not possible to keep people in lockdown for so long.
Speaking to media persons through a video-conference, Amarinder said, “The curve will not be flattened on May 3. Experts tell me it will be flattened in September. We cannot keep people in lockdown till then. But even after the lockdown ends, we will take precautions that the virus does not spread exponentially.”
The Chief Minister said his government has already sought a special package, including Rs 729 crore for hospital upgradation, Rs 550 crore for setting up an institute for advanced virology, as well as release of the pending GST arrears of Rs 4,400 crore. While the Prime Minister had given positive indications, the package was yet to come, he said, adding that his government was giving the Centre time to formulate a collective response to the demands of all the states.
Getting state back on track
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal had earlier told The Indian Express that the state is facing a loss of Rs 150 crore every day on account of collections on VAT on petrol and excise duty, GST services, passenger tax, and stamp duty. It was also losing Rs 30 crore a day on account of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited as the industry was shut and there was not much demand for power. But the state had to pay the fixed cost to the private thermal plants. On the road ahead, Manpreet said on Tuesday, “I cannot see what’s at the end of the tunnel now. It can only be said after lockdown is over. And the recovery would not be immediate. It will take time. Also, these losses would be permanent. Somebody who did not use petrol during this period would not make up for it after the lockdown is over. It will be a staggered opening up for the state’s economy.”
Handling the COVID curve
The CM, meanwhile, said he was “satisfied with the way things were moving, the way patients were being handled, the way lockdown was able to keep the cases in control and the way frontline workers were engaged in ensuring essential supplies”.
On his earlier claim that 87 per cent people could get infected by the virus in Punjab, Amarinder, while showing a copy of the report, said it was a protection made by a PGIMER expert. “It meant that if we were not able to keep things in check, so many people could have been infected. But now, this lockdown has helped. In Punjab, we may have no new case when we are out of this lockdown.”
On PGI’s denial of the report, the CM said it was not necessary to have a stamp from organisations. “There are experts in departments. Our Health Department was in touch with them and they had given them this report,” he pointed out.
PPE kits for police
Amarinder said the government was planning to provide PPE kits to its police force in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19. He said the first priority was protection of health workers for whom the state already has 16,000 PPE kits.
On the Patiala attack on a police party, leading to the amputation of an ASI’s hand, the Chief Minister said he would recommend to the DGP that the ASI be given an award.
Need for more tests
Conceding that the number of COVID tests being conducted in the state was not sufficient, Amarinder said for mass testing, at least 10 lakh Rapid Testing kits were needed, which the government had ordered from the ICMR. So far, only 1000 kits have been received.
Relaxing lockdown curbs
On the issue of relaxations to be given, as also announced today by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister said the committee formed by his government was already examining ways of doing so without compromising on the health of the people. The people’s lives and health were key priority, at the moment, he said, adding that the relaxations would have to be staggered, in phases, and the way forward was being worked out by the taskforce set up for this purpose.
Opening liquor vends
In response to a question, the CM said that while there was no proposal to open liquor vends in the state at present, a decision would gradually be taken in this regard also.
No salary cuts for govt staffers
The CM also clarified that there was no proposal to cut the salaries of the government employees to generate funds to meet the COVID-19 battle expenditure.
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