Thermal screening at Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh on Friday. (Express Photo)
THE UT Administration on Friday declared novel coronavirus as epidemic and ordered shutdown of all schools — government and private — till March 31. The administration approved notification under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, under sections 2, 3 and 4 to enforce the preventive steps for control of Covid-19.
This was approved after UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore convened a meeting on Friday.
The notification will empower the authorised officers to forcibly admit any suspected case of Covid-19 if they refuse admission or isolation. It also allows the district administration to take steps for containment of the disease if a case is reported from a defined geographical area.
Principal Secretary (Home) Arun Gupta, however, clarified that it has been declared epidemic only as a preventive measure. “No malls or cinemas are going to be shut due to this,” he said.
Schools closed till March 31
The department of school education ordered closure of all government and private schools with immediate effect till March 31.
The order stated that “students will attend the school only to take/appear in the board examination, annual examination and assessment examination etc during March 2020. However, all teaching and non-teaching staff members will attend the school as usual till further orders”.
A letter was sent by the parents’ association to the Home Secretary stating that the World Health Organisation has declared Covid-19 as pandemic and several state governments across the country have closed their educational institutions till March 31.
“Several state governments across the country have closed their educational institutions till March 31 in view of the rapid spread of Novel Corona Virus COVID-19. However, in Chandigarh, some private schools have already begun the regular classes for the new academic session 2020-2021 and many other schools are going to begin the classes as early as next week,” the letter written by the association stated.
“Chandigarh administration has already been quite proactive in making advance arrangements in the hospitals and spreading awareness in the general public. However, the schools are still prone to spreading the infections as many students have been visiting other places during the holidays after annual exams,” the letter added.
Helpline launched, teams of SDMs constituted
UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore held a meeting with the Health Secretaries of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory, Chandigarh, along with Deputy Commissioner, Chandigarh, Dr Jagat Ram, Director PGIMER, Dr B S Chavan, Director, GMCH, Sector 32, and Director Health Services, UT, to review the preparedness of Tricity regarding coronavirus.
The residents of Chandigarh have been provided with a 24X7 helpline no. 9779558282 for any type of queries related to Covid-19. A dedicated ambulance is available 24X7 for shifting and screening of patients thereof. It was stated that adequate arrangements have been made for isolation beds in all the three government hospitals of Chandigarh and an adequate space is made available for quarantine of patients, if required, at any stage.
The teams of SDMs along with the area DSP and Drug Inspectors have been constituted to ensure that there is no hoarding of any medicines, masks and sanitizers. The vendors found to be involved in this malpractice will be dealt with seriously under the provisions of the Drug and Cosmetic Act and other Acts as applicable.
The Chandigarh Administration stated that it appeals to all the residents to avoid mass gatherings and as a precautionary measure no new session for any school shall begin before April 1, 2020. However, schools can continue with their scheduled board exams.
According to the Punjab Raj Bhawan, the upcoming outside engagements are hereby restricted as a precautionary measure.
Private firms suspend biometric attendance
Certain private companies have also suspended biometric attendance and issued work from home orders.
Spokesperson of Tech Mahindra stated that as a precautionary measure, they have also suspended biometric attendance and employees are being asked to sanitise their hands after short intervals.
Renewable Energy Members Welfare Association, Punjab, has issued advisory to all its members to allow their employees to either work from home or follow strict hygiene measures, including use of sanitizers and mask. They have also have asked them not to attend mass gatherings.
Nine major events, weddings cancelled
A wedding lunch was scheduled to take place at Confluence Banquet hall of Hotel Mountview on April 16. According to the CITCO, the event has now been cancelled. The event was supposed to host 200 people there.
Aditya Bhatia who was supposed to come from Australia on 10th of this month could not come for his wedding which has now been postponed. He had to come on Air India flight from Sydney, Australia, for his wedding scheduled for March 13 while his brother too had to travel from Melbourne. Both have been held up there as airlines asked them to reschedule their visits.
Meena Bhatia, his mother, based in Sector 37, Chandigarh, said, “My son (groom) was to come on Air India flight while another son had to come on Singapore Airlines flight. But the airlines have asked them to reschedule their visit to India.”
She added, “Now we have postponed the wedding until he is allowed to travel back. We haven’t decided the new date of the wedding as yet.”
Besides, eight other major events have been cancelled.
Five events were being hosted for five days by HSIP from March 16 to March 20 at View Point but the booking stands cancelled now.
Another event was to be hosted by the Department of Paediatrics for 400 people on March 21 at the pool side lawn which has also been cancelled.
Another dinner to be organised by PGI Opthalmology on March 20 which was to host 125 people has been cancelled and another by ICSI to be held at Confluence itself on April 7 stands cancelled.
Officials of the Chandigarh Administration said that the occupancy of hotel rooms has gone down by 25 per cent. Sources said that all known hotels were not taking bookings of any citizens who came from abroad to prevent the spread of the virus. ISB also cancelled the public policy dialogue that was scheduled to be held on Saturday. Delegates from all over India were supposed to attend it.
A beauty clinic, Kaya Clinics, is advising its clients suffering from cold or fever to reschedule their appointments. They stated that they are 100 per cent fumigated, sanitised and safe. “Kaya staff uses masks & sanitizers and is also available for clients. We screen staff & clients for symptoms. Please reschedule your appointments if you have cold & fever for your & everyone’s safety,” the message stated.
Less people on Dubai, Sharjah flights
There has been a dip in the number of people travelling on Chandigarh-Dubai and Chandigarh-Sharjah flights. According to the official figures, on the Air India’s Sharjah flight, 151 people departed while 104 arrived on March 10. The number of people arriving from Sharjah came down to just 79 on March 11 and 147 were those who departed. On Friday, 157 people departed against the capacity of 180 and 125 arrived.
The Dubai flight saw arrival of 169 people on Friday against the capacity of 180 seats. On March 12, there was arrival of 136 people and departure of 161 people. On March 11, there was arrival of 108 people and 148 people departed for Dubai.
Thermal screening at High Court
The Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association Friday asked the High Court administration to restrict the functioning of High Court to only hearing of urgent matters, which involve prayers for stay and bail.
The letter was addressed to Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and other senior judges, including Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Rajiv Sharma.
The Bar Association has also requested the High Court to notify that only lawyers, who are to appear in a matter, are allowed inside courtrooms.
However, a senior officer of the High Court said no decision has been taken in this regard yet. “We have to take precautionary measures and asked the health department to screen the people entering High Court,” he said.
Following orders from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the UT health department deployed five teams at different gates of the court to screen people, including lawyers, litigants and others, in view of Covid-19 scare. A total of 10 people were deployed in the afternoon for thermal screening of the people. The order for screening of those entering the High Court building was passed on administrative side by the High Court. The steps were taken to check any suspected case, said a health department official, adding that the suspected cases will be asked about travel history and appropriate measures will be taken to clinically check them.