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Capt mulls harsher measures in areas reporting Covid spike

Punjab CM doesnt rule out lockdown, but makes it clear that economic activity wont be allowed to suffer

Statesman News Service | Chandigarh |

Expressing serious concern over the surge in Covid-19 cases and increasing number of deaths per million in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said he was not averse to imposing harsher measures to check further spread of the pandemic.

At a video conference (VC) meeting of his Cabinet, which reviewed the Covid situation, the CM, in response to a suggestion from the expert health advisory committee chairman Dr KK Talwar, said if needed, the state government would consider going in for strong measures to combat the coronavirus.

Though he did not rule out lockdown, especially in areas with high spike in cases, Amarinder made it clear that economic activity will not be allowed to suffer. In his presentation on the Covid crisis, Dr Talwar said four districts — Ludhiana, Mohali, Jalandhar and Patiala — were witnessing maximum surge and needed more stricter preventive measures to control the situation.

The situation in the state, he said, was grim, with over 31000 positive cases and more than 800 fatalities. Deaths per million had also gone up to 27.2, and as many as 265 patients were on oxygen and 20 on ventilators at present, he said, underlining the need for early testing and treatment for saving lives.

The state had reached 20000 tests per day, including rapid antigen testing, he said. Dr Talwar cited researchers to point out that strict adherence to wearing masks for the next four weeks could help control the pandemic. Amarinder said the district and police officials had been given strict directives to enforce masks and other Covid safety protocols.

Earlier, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is heading the Expert Group for revival of the state’s economy, also said any measures to check the Covid spread should not impact economic activity.

Montek also reiterated, while briefing the cabinet on the Group’s initial recommendations, that there was no suggestion made on withdrawal of free power to farmers, as was being projected by a section of the media.

Montek said the Group was in favour of diversification to reduce dependence on paddy, and wanted Punjab to spend 20 per cent more per year, for the next five years, on development of the public health infrastructure.

Warning that the state must also be ready for a second spike, the economist said if lockdowns had to be introduced in certain areas then strict protocols should be put in place to ensure that there is no impact on the industrial and income generating avenues.