Coronavirus outbreak: Punjab extends lockdown till June 30, with more conditional relaxations

Updated: May 31, 2020, 07:29 IST | IANS | Mumbai

Amarinder Singh later said during his weekly Facebook Live session that the threat of Covid was not over yet, and if necessary, he would continue to take tough measures to save the lives of Punjabis

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Picture/Twitter Amarinder Singh
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Picture/Twitter Amarinder Singh

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday announced extension in the lockdown in Punjab till June 30, with more relaxations subject to the guidelines of the central government. Though experts have advised against opening of the hospitality industry and malls, the Chief Minister said the state would take into account the central government guidelines for lockdown 5.0.

The Chief Minister announced his decision after a ground assessment of the Covid situation through a videoconference with health experts, along with top officials and Cabinet Ministers Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Balbir Singh Sidhu and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa.

The decision is also in line with the central government's decision to extend the national lockdown beyond May 31 for the fifth time. Amarinder Singh later said during his weekly Facebook Live session that the threat of Covid was not over yet, and if necessary, he would continue to take tough measures to save the lives of Punjabis.

Underlining the need to continue to exercise extreme caution, he lauded the state's people for following all health norms to help the state in controlling the coronavirus spread to a great extent.  He made it clear that the extension of the lockdown in the state would be conditional to strict adherence to Covid safety protocols, including physical distancing and wearing of masks.

He directed Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu to ensure immediate steps for the distribution of masks as part of ration kits to the needy and poor, who could not afford to purchase them. Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta told the review meeting that wearing of masks was being strictly enforced across all districts, with more than Rs 1 crore collected so far in fine from the offenders.

The Chief Minister sought an update during the meeting on the state's plans for launch of home surveillance and Covid foot soldiers deployment to track and trace infections. He was informed by Principal Secretary (Health) Anurag Agarwal that both would be launched over the next couple of days.

Asha workers and other local women from the community were being hired to undertake home-to-home surveillance across districts, and they would be paid Rs 2 per head in every household surveyed, he said. As for the tracing and tracking of symptomatic cases not reporting to the health authorities, an app was currently being field-tested and would be launched in two-three days.

Youngsters would be asked to download the app to voluntarily report on such cases, said Agarwal, adding that mandatory OTP verification of these Covid foot soldiers would be ensured to check false reporting.

The Chief Minister later, in his Facebook session, the third in the series, said non-reporting to health authorities by those returning to the state, especially from abroad, was a big challenge, as it complicated their contact tracing and endangered the lives of others.

He said 9,560 such people had been traced and tested, and some positive cases had been found among these. Though there was an overall decline in the daily cases, and of the 2,158 positive cases so far, 1,946 had recovered fully, new cases in the last few days was a matter of concern, he added, appealing to the people to report any instance of returnees someone jumping health checkups by the state government.

Expressing concern over possible community spread, he said this is a threat the state faced now and he would keep this fact in mind while deciding about relaxations. Regarding rapid testing kits, Amarinder Singh said those received by the state from China and South Korea had to be returned as they were defective.

More flights are resuming, with three flights daily from Dubai, the Chief Minister said in reply to a Dubai resident seeking to come to Chandigarh. Normal flights had not yet resumed, he said, asking the questioner to get in touch with the consulate office.

Responding to a question, the Chief Minister said he was happy to note that 85 per cent of the state's industry had already started operations with 65 per cent of labour engaged in it. The state government was facilitating many multinational information technology firms, including Quark, to set base in Mohali and many more would come to Punjab as the situation improves, he said.

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