COVID surge: Punjab CM extends night curfew to entire state, bans political gatherings

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Chandigarh,Apr 7 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday announced extension of night curfew to the entire state and a ban on political gatherings till April 30, while slamming his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal and SAD's Sukhbir Badal for their 'irresponsible conduct' in attending rallies without following COVID-19 protocol.

Making it clear that those violating the ban on political gatherings, including leaders, will be booked under the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act, Singh said he has been forced to order the ban on political gatherings as his pleas to parties to refrain from organising such events had been ignored.

Singh said he was surprised at the “behaviour of certain political leaders, including Kejriwal and Badal, who had been attending political rallies without following safety protocols”.

The chief minister said “such irresponsible conduct doesn't behove them”.

“How do you expect people to be serious about the spread of the disease if senior political leaders behave like this,' he said. The chief minister said night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am, which was till now imposed in 12 districts, will be extended to all 22 districts of the state.

He also directed Punjab DGP, Dinkar Gupta, to ensure strict implementation of the night curfew. As part of the fresh curbs, the number of people who can attend funerals and weddings has been reduced to 50 people indoors and 100 for outdoors.

Wearing masks has been made mandatory for all government employees while in office, an official statement said here while detailing the fresh set of restrictions imposed as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to remain high in the state.

These restrictions, coupled with the ones imposed earlier, which include closure of schools and educational institutions, shall remain effective till April 30.

However, there was some respite for shop owners in malls, as the chief minister allowed entry of 10 people per shop at any given time, as against the earlier order of not allowing more than 100 people in the entire mall at one time. This would imply that 200 people will be allowed in a mall with 20 shops at any given time, said the statement.

Punjab had on Tuesday reported 62 more fatalities due to COVID-19, pushing the toll to 7,216 while the state had witnessed 2,924 more coronavirus cases, taking the infection tally to 2,57,057.

The chief minister, in his weekly review of the COVID-19 situation, expressed concern at the high positivity and mortality rates in the state.

He said it was a matter of concern that over 85 percent of cases in Punjab are of the UK strain, which is more contagious and virulent.

Singh said he had no option but to go in for stricter measures to further control the ongoing surge, even though the number of positive cases had somewhat stabilised in the last few days due to curbs imposed earlier.

Besides ordering the police and the districts administrations to register cases against political leaders, organizers and participants of political gatherings under the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act, he said owners of tent houses, who provide the infrastructure for such gatherings should also be booked.

The chief minister said even venue owners, who would provide space for such events, will not be spared and they too would be booked and their venues sealed for three months.

He also made it clear that no social, cultural or sports gatherings and related functions will be allowed till April 30. In-person public dealing shall be restricted in all government offices and online and virtual modes for grievance redressal shall be encouraged, he said while adding that all government employees will need to compulsorily wear a mask while attending office. The chief minister said citizens should be encouraged to visit public offices only for essential services and departments concerned should issue instructions for limiting daily appointments for works like registries etc.

Restrictions of running cinema houses at 50 percent of their capacity and closure of schools and educational institutions, except medical and nursing colleges, shall continue till April 30, he added. PTI SUN VSD DV DV