COVID-19: Night curfew extended by 1 hr in Punjab; bars, cinemas, gyms shut

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Chandigarh, Apr 19 (PTI) Amid rising COVID-19 cases, the Punjab government on Monday announced stricter curbs, including extension of night curfew by an hour and closure of bars, cinema halls, gyms, spas, coaching centres and sports complexes in the state till April 30.

The fresh restrictions will come into effect from Tuesday, officials said, adding that curfew timings will now be from 8 pm to 5 am, instead of the earlier 9 pm to 5 am.

The new restrictions, which also include closure of all malls, shops and markets on Sundays, coupled with the ones imposed earlier, will remain in effect till April 30, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said after a COVID review meeting here.

He directed the police department to strictly enforce the restrictions, taking support of civil society organisations where needed. All weekly markets have also been ordered to be shut down.

Restaurants and hotels will remain open but only for takeaway and home delivery from Monday to Saturday.

Gatherings of more than 20 people, including weddings and cremations, have also been banned across the state.

Prior approval of the district administration is needed for all gatherings of more than 10 people, except for cremation, a government statement said here.

Rates for RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) by private labs have been reduced to Rs 450 and Rs 300 respectively (with additional charges for home collection), in a bid to promote increased testing, it said.

The chief minister also ordered that people flying into Punjab should have a negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours. Otherwise, they would have to undergo RAT testing at the airports.

He also instructed that people who have attended large gatherings anywhere (religious/ political/social) be mandatorily home-quarantined for five days and tested as per existing protocols.

The chief minister directed the transport department to restrict the number of passengers in buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws to 50 per cent of the vehicle's capacity.

Mohali district, along with the rest of the tri-city, will remain under complete lockdown on Wednesday on the occasion of Ram Navami, to avoid gatherings amid surging COVID-19 cases in the region, Singh said.

The tri-city region refers to Chandigarh, Panchkula and Mohali.

The chief minister said he has received a request from the Chandigarh Union Territory adviser for a lockdown in Mohali, as part of a lockdown in the entire tri-city area, and necessary notification would be issued accordingly.

The CM also appealed to people across all other districts in Punjab to avoid gatherings and large celebrations during the festival in view of the spike in cases.

Singh also ordered postponement of the recruitment exams for 'Patwaris' and directed the Medical Education department to hold online examinations for 1st, 2nd and 3rd year MBBS / BDS /BAMS and 1st year nursing students.

While reviewing the situation in private and government hospitals, the CM directed 75 per cent reservation of level-3 facilities in all private hospitals providing critical COVID care.

He said no elective surgeries should be conducted in any government or private hospitals till May 15 and all OPD patients must be tested, besides encouraging them to get vaccinated.

The 104 Helpline shall function 24 hours to provide information on bed availability in government and private hospitals.

Oxygen requirement and availability will be strictly monitored and ensured for both government and private hospitals by a committee, while private hospitals will be supported in supply of essential medicines such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab etc, for which MD, Punjab Health System Corporation shall be the nodal officer, he said.

All elective surgeries in medical colleges also stand postponed for now.

The chief minister ordered ramp-up of tracing, and directed recruitment of manpower if needed, to handle the emergency situation.

Health Minister Balbir Sidhu informed the meeting that deputy commissioners have been given Rs 1 crore each for emergency use. PTI CHS VSD TDS TDS