Punjab on Friday became the second state after Odisha to extend the 21-day lockdown till May 1 in the wake of growing number of cases of the Coronavirus.

The Punjab Cabinet unanimously approved the extension of the curfew till May 1 with effect from today.

In a tweet, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said, given the seriousness of the situation arising out of COVID-19, the Cabinet has decided to extend the lockdown and curfew till May 1.

Earlier, while addressing media through video conference, the chief minister had said the ongoing lockdown should continue, while noting that predictions by health experts about the spread of the pandemic are “horrendous and frightening”

However, the lockdown in the state will be lifted for farmers in view of the upcoming harvest season, the chief minister has informed.

He added that the state was expecting a bumper crop of 185 lakh tonnes of wheat and is making arrangements for harvest of the crop.

“We are going to offer lockdown relief only for farmers for their crop. We have very good crop but the figures are frightening as far as projection is concerned till November. Things are not good and it is our duty to keep the people safe,” he had said earlier in the day.

The Cabinet, headed by CM Amarinder Singh, meanwhile, today authorized the Deputy Commissioners to declare new mandis in their respective districts, as needed, to meet the demands of social distancing while ensuring smooth procurement of the grain, the chief minister’s office has said.

Further, Singh today proposed to the Central government a Rs 550 crore project for setting up an ‘Advanced Centre for Virology’ in the state, with land to be offered by his government free of cost.

The chief minister wrote to PM Modi requesting him to direct the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to set up the proposed centre, which would focus on addressing regional, national and global needs in virology, diagnostic, research and therapeutic evaluations to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Singh has said that there were indications of his state moving into the ‘community transmission’ stage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, the Central government has denied the Punjab CM’s claim but asked the people to remain aware and vigilant.

The chief minister has said that most of the 27 positive cases reported in Punjab on Thursday, the maximum in a day, were cases of secondary transmission, describing it as an indication of his state moving into Stage 3 of Coronavirus outbreak.

“In Punjab, 27 cases are there with no travel history. Yes, it can be said that most of them are cases of community transmission,” he said.

Punjab so far has reported 151 Coronavirus positive cases, and 8 fatalities, according to the Health Ministry data.

The Odisha government, taking a major step towards containing the novel Coronavirus, on Wednesday announced the extension of the 21-day lockdown till April 30 and also urged the Centre to follow suit.

Announcing the same, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in a video message, thanked the people of the state for their cooperation and said he knew it “involves a lot of sacrifice, hardship and uncertainty but this is the only way to face this crisis”.

Asserting that “life will not be the same ever,” the chief minister asked the people to understand the reality and face it boldly together.

“Coronavirus is the biggest threat that the human race has faced in more than a century. Life will not be the same ever. All of us must understand this and face it boldly together. With our sacrifice and with the blessing of Lord Jagannath, this too shall pass,” he said.

The 21-day lockdown, declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, is expected to end on April 14 till now.

However, PM Modi will be taking a meeting with all the chief ministers via video conferencing on April 11 to discuss the extension of the lockdown.

On Tuesday, at the first all-party meet since the declaration of the shutdown, PM Modi had hinted that the lockdown could be extended owing to the increasing cases of COVID-19.

Speaking with the opposition leaders, he had reportedly stated that by all accounts, it will not be possible to end the lockdown on April 14.

While Cabinet Secretary Rajeev Gauba had a week ago denied that there were any plans to extend the lockdown, several states have written to the Centre saying that the restrictions must continue.

On Monday, at a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the people must be prepared for a long haul. He had urged the ministers to come up with a ‘graded plan’.