Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 30
As the fight against COVID-19 continued on war footing, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered sealing of the state’s borders, while announcing extension of the curfew till April 14.
The Chief Minister also promised special insurance for Punjab Police personnel and sanitation workers engaged in the Covid battle, on the lines of the scheme announced by the Centre for frontline health workers, if the Centre does not concede the state’s demand for these covers.
Amarinder asked the Finance Minister to come out with a contingency financial plan, to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, and ensure an uninterrupted medical and essentials supply pipeline in the current battle, which he said would be a long-drawn one and would need more support from the Government of India.
In another significant decision, the Chief Minister also allowed the Local Bodies Department to extend, by three months, the services of the 2000-odd sanitation workers, due to retire on March 31, in order to deal with the prevailing situation.
During a video conference to discuss and review the current situation in the light of the COVID-19 crisis and the curfew restrictions in the state, the Chief Minister directed all the departments concerned to intensify their efforts to check the spread of the disease, and ensure that all essential supplies and services are maintained. He also ordered strict enforcement of the curfew, especially in rural areas, amid reports that gatherings continued to take place in villages.
All restrictions should be strictly enforced till April 14, after which the state will decide in line with the Government of India’s further decision, said Amarinder, adding that the lockdown was the only way to prevent the spread of the disease.
ACS Vini Mahajan informed the meeting that of the 1051 samples tested so far, 39 had been found positive and 881 negative, while results were awaited on 131. Two people had died of the disease and one had recovered. Mobile testing vans are being made operational to increase testing in Punjab, she added.
Giving details of the state’s preparedness, she said 65 more ventilators, more than 1.5 lakh PPE kits and over 47000 N-95 masks, as well as 13 lakh more triple layer masks had been ordered to augment the existing equipment. Protective equipment was being procured from all possible sources, Mahajan told the meeting, adding that the PPE samples of Evershine company of Ludhiana had received approval from the Central Testing Lab in Coimbatore, paving the way for orders for the kits to be placed on priority basis.
A new helpline has been started to tele-connect citizens with doctors under the IMA Punjab, and citizens can call 18001804104 or use the feature on the COVA mobile Application, said Mahajan.
Finance Minister Manpreet Badal stressed the need to press the Centre for immediate release of the GST arrears of the state, and also suggested that every minister and MLA should donate a month’s salary and all government employees should give one week’s salary to the COVID Relief Fund.
Earlier, the Chief Minister accepted the proposal of DGP Dinkar Gupta to seal the state’s borders to check the inflow of people, especially from Haryana. Since both Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir had locked their borders, people hailing from these states and stranded in other places were entering Punjab, the DGP pointed out, seeking the Chief Minister’s permission to block the borders.
Amarinder made it clear that while no general relaxation had been provided to industry and brick-kilns to resume operations, they had been told they could utilise the services of the migrant labourers if they could provide food and shelter to them, while ensuring strict adherence to all COVID-19 related safety protocols.
The Chief Minister was also informed during the conference that all arrangements were in place for procurement of wheat grain, which will commence, after some delay, around mid-April now.
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