Calling for `war-like preparedness’ to deal with the massive Covid spike in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered a series of emergency measures, including extension of weekend lockdown with daily night curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. in all the 167 cities/towns in the state from tomorrow. He has also ordered a total ban on all gatherings except weddings and funerals across the state till August 31. Government and private offices will work at 50% capacity till the end of this month, as per the directives issued by the Chief Minister during a Video Conference meeting with top officials to review the Covid situation in the state, which is witnessing a massive increase in daily cases and an increase in deaths.
Captain Amarinder also directed the concerned officials to restrict public visitors in government officials and to encourage the use of online grievance redressal system, which has been significantly strengthened by the state government to minimise in-person contact with hassle-free online engagement.
In the five worst affected districts of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and SAS Nagar (Mohali), restrictions on vehicular capacity have been imposed again, with buses and other public transport to operate with 50% capacity and private four-wheelers not allowed to carry more than three passengers per vehicle. The Chief Minister has also directed the DCs in these five districts to allow only 50% of the non-essential shops to open on a daily basis to check crowding. These five districts are currently accounting for 80% of the active case load in the state. The Chief Minister directed DGP Dinkar Gupta to strictly enforce compliance of rules with regard to the number of persons allowed to attend weddings and funerals, and also to ensure total ban on political gatherings till August 31, when the situation will be reviewed.
He also asked the DGP to crack the whip on all political protests and gatherings, and asked his own party, Punjab Congress, leadership to enforce the ban strictly. “Enough is enough,” said Captain Amarinder, adding that “we need to be tough without affecting the state’s economic activity.” Pointing to the 920 Covid deaths reported in the state so far, he said “each death pains me, and the projections for the coming weeks are grim.” Underlining the need to promote public participation in creating awareness on the measures to check the spread of Covid, the Chief Minister asked the Health department to promote public participation (lok sanjheydari) by involving all other departments, NGOs and local politicians to educate the people. The Chief Minister said the state was in an `health emergency’ situation, necessitating harsh measures, which might have to be further intensified in the coming days to curb the Covid spread. Though the cases were currently concentrated mainly in urban areas, rural areas were also witnessing an increase, he said, adding that if needed, travel restrictions may have to be imposed.