As Covid cases continue to rise rapidly in Punjab and other states across the country, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered the imposition of stricter restrictions in the state beginning tomorrow, including extension of night curfew timings (8 p.m. to 5 a.m.), closure of all bars, cinema halls, gyms, spas, coaching centres, sports complexes, with restaurants and hotels to be open only for takeaway and home delivery from Monday to Saturday.
The rates for RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) by private labs have been reduced to Rs 450 and Rs 300 respectively (with additional charges for home collection of the samples), in a bid to promote increased testing.
The gatherings of more than 20 persons, including for weddings and cremations, have also been banned across the state. The new restrictions, which also include closure of all malls, shops and markets on Sunday, coupled with the ones imposed earlier, will remain in effect till 30 April, announced the CM.
Chairing a high-level, virtual meeting to review the Covid situation in the state, the CM also ordered that all people flying into Punjab should have a negative RT-PCR not more than 72 hours old, else they would have to undergo RAT testing at the airport. He also ordered that people who have attended large gatherings anywhere to be mandatorily home quarantined for five days and tested as per protocol.
Capt Amarinder directed the transport department that the number of people in buses, taxis and autos be restricted to 50 per cent of the capacity. In a bid to check inbound travellers, the CM also directed that the RAT testing booths should be set up at bus stands and railway stations and all passengers be checked. All eligible persons should also be vaccinated against Covid.
He further said that military hospitals in the cantonments in Punjab had assured the state government of all possible help to tackle the coronavirus surge, while private hospitals had already been directed to reserve 75 per cent beds for Covid patients.
Capt Amarinder said that no elective surgeries should be conducted in any government or private hospitals till 15 May and all OPD patients must be tested, besides encouraging them to get vaccinated.
The chief secretary, Vini Mahajan, said police personnel were being placed at the disposal of the health department, along with education department personnel including teachers, for more aggressive tracing of contacts of Covid positive persons.
Health secretary Hussan Lal, in a presentation, said the state’s positivity rate was around 7.8 per cent but had shown a quantum jump thereafter, going up to 12.6 per cent as of 15 April, with Mohali being the worst hit at 36.53 per cent.The spike, he said, could be attributed to the new variant, along with people coming back from large gatherings from outside Punjab.
The figure was expected to go up further with more testing, he said, adding by 5 of May, the state was projected to report 6000 cases a day if urgent measures are not implemented in districts of Ludhiana, SAS Nagar (Mohali), Jalandhar , Amritsar and Patiala, which would be the drivers of the surge.