Punjab Shuts Down Educational Institutions till March 31 Amid Covid Cases Surge

Amid rising Covid cases surge, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh order stricter restrictions including shutting down schools and colleges, other than medical and nursing colleges, till March 31. In a Covid review meeting, Punjab Chief Minister has announced massive state-wide restrictions starting from this Saturday and situation will be reviewed after two weeks hence.

Orders include:

  • All educational institutes, other than medical and nursing colleges, will remain closed till March 31.
  • Cinemas to function with 50% capacity, not more than 100 people in malls.
  • To break the transmission chain, the CM has appealed to keep social activity in their houses to the bare minimum for the next two weeks. Not more than 10 visitors should be entertained in homes.
  • The procurement operations will start from April 10 this year.
  • Encourage online and virtual modes for grievance redressal, and asked departments concerned to issue necessary instructions for limiting appointments per day for registries, etc.
  • One hour of silence will be observed across Punjab every Saturday from 11 am to noon, in memory of those who lost their lives to Covid, with no vehicle to ply at this time. This initiative will, however, remain voluntary.

Directions to Health Department

  • Directing health officials to ramp up testing per day to 35,000, the Chief Minister said special focus should be on super spreaders, and government employees, teachers in educational institutions, etc must be tested routinely. RAT testing should be stepped up along with RTPCR testing, he ordered, while directing contact tracing and contact testing to be taken up to 30 per positive person. The CPTOs must personally monitor this task, he said.
  • The Chief Minister also directed the Department of Medical Education and Research to immediately complete recruitment of specialists/super-specialists.
  • well-functioning hospitals, where serious cases are best handled, had been advised to restore the Covid beds and postpone elective surgeries.
  • All private and government hospitals and health facilities are ordered to offer hassle-free vaccination services for at least eight hours daily, seven days a week, till March 31. There should be no requirement of a separate certificate if an eligible 45-plus person brings the medical record regarding co-morbidities.

Restrictions imposed in the 11 worst-hit districts (Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Mohali, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, SBS Nagar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and Moga):

  • A complete ban on all social gatherings and related functions, except for funerals/cremations/weddings, which will be allowed with only 20 people in attendance. This will be enforced from Sunday.
  • Restrictions on in-person public dealings in government offices, with citizens to be encouraged to visit offices only for essential services.
  • Night curfew timings are from 9 pm to 5 am.
  • Cinemas, multiplexes, restaurants and malls will remain closed on Sundays, though home deliveries will be allowed subject to night curfew. Industries and essential services will be allowed to function, but barring these, all restrictions will be strictly enforced, the Chief Minister directed the top civic and police officials in these districts.

Curbs on Political Rallies

Punjab CM also announced that Punjab Congress will not hold any political gatherings for the next two weeks in view of the spike in Covid cases in the state. He appealed to other political parties and their leaders to keep their gatherings within the prescribed numbers, that is 50 per cent of capacity, subject to maximum of 100 in closed and 200 in open spaces. No political gatherings should take place in the most affected districts, he said.

Strict Enforcement underlined

Underlining the need for strict enforcement, the Chief Minister ordered compulsory enforcement of wearing of face masks in the state. He directed the police and health authorities to take all those moving around and loitering in public areas, and on the roads and streets, without face masks, to the nearest RT-PCR Testing Facility for taking nasopharyngeal swabs to ensure that they are not asymptomatic Covid cases.

He asked the Amritsar DC to talk to the SGPC and management of Durgiana temple to encourage devotees to wear masks inside the shrines.

Strategy for other districts

Though other districts will not be placed under such stringent restrictions for now, the Chief Minister ordered immediate reinforcement and strict monitoring of the strategy of micro-containment and containment zones where there are evident clusters. He made it clear that if necessary, strict curbs would also be imposed in other districts if the situation worsens and Covid protocols and norms are not adhered to.

Surge Due to Reopening of Educational Institutions

Dr KK Talwar, who heads the state government’s expert team on Covid, said the surge in cases appeared to be the result of opening of schools and colleges, with young asymptomatic people appearing to be spreading the virus. There was no evidence as of now to show that the spike was due to the mutants, as only two cases of new strains had been found in Punjab so far. The state currently has almost 40 per cent cases from under-30 population, he added.

Source: Twitter, The Tribune