As the number of Covid-19 positive legislators and ministers rose to 29, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday appealed to all other legislators who had come in contact with them to avoid attending the one-day Assembly session tomorrow.
The CM also repeated his appeal to all political parties to refrain from physical protests at this critical juncture, when Covid cases in Punjab were spiralling amid projections that the state would see a major spike in the coming weeks.
The protests by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), led by their Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs), were “endangering” the lives of people, charged Capt Amarinder, pointing to the AAP dharnas (sit-ins) in various parts of the state since 20 August.
With people between 25 and 250 present at each of these gatherings, they had become “tinder boxes” for sparking further spread of the Covid pandemic, said the CM, urging the AAP to call off their protests.
Capt Amarinder pointed out that of the eight AAP MLAs and leaders, who had spearheaded these dharnas so far, two had already tested positive and each of them had come in contact with scores of other people till now. In terms of MLAs, four of AAP members (including an unattached) were Covid positive, he said.
The CM has also ordered Truenat and RAT machines, for early results, to be installed at the Assembly premises, as well as Punjab Bhawan and MLAs hostel, for Covid testing ahead of the Assembly session, where only those who have tested negative for Covid within 48 hours prior to the start of the session will be allowed.
During a Covid review meeting with the CM and other officials, chief secretary Vini Mahajan appealed to all political parties that their MLAs who had come in contact with Covid positive colleagues should reach the Assembly premises early for testing in case they wish to attend. While four MLAs of AAP have tested positive for the virus, six SAD MLAs have also tested positive for the virus. The remaining MLAs, who have tested positive in the tests conducted ahead of the session, are members of the ruling Congress.
While three Cabinet ministers had tested positive earlier, one minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa had recovered from the infection and had tested negative yesterday.
Meanwhile, Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana K P Singh has made coronavirus negative test reports mandatory for ministers, MLAs, officers and employees to attend the 12th session of the 15th Assembly. It is a constitutional requirement to hold a session within six months of the previous Assembly session. In order to ensure social distancing in the House, one member per bench will be allowed to sit, an official of the Punjab Assembly said.
Visitors and journalists will not be allowed inside the Assembly, the official said. Social distancing norms will also be followed for the bureaucrats concerned in the officers’ gallery. A kit comprising masks, gloves and hand sanitiser will be provided to each member of the House, the official said.