Will be forced to consider total lockdown if people don't follow curbs: Punjab CM

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Chandigarh, May 3 (PTI) A day after ordering more state-wide curbs, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday warned he will be forced to consider a total lockdown if people do not follow restrictions and the COVID-19 situation does not improve.

He said he will not allow Punjab to go the way of some other states where patients can be seen, according to him, lying on the road.

On Sunday, his government ordered the closure of all shops not selling essential commodities, barred over 50 per cent attendance at government offices and made a coronavirus-negative report or a vaccination certificate mandatory for people entering the state.

These curbs, in addition to measures like a weekend lockdown and a night curfew announcd earlier, will be in force till May 15.

Now, according to an official statement, the CM has warned of harsher steps.

Chairing a review meeting on Monday, Singh said he is not in favour of a complete and harsh lockdown.

The CM said he has so far refrained from ordering a sweeping lockdown because it will hurt the poor the most and lead to an exodus of migrant labourers, plunging industries into chaos again.

“However, if the people do not stringently comply with the restrictions in place, harsher steps might have to be taken,” he said.

The chief minister said Punjab is currently in a soft lockdown situation, with strong curbs in place and additional restrictions imposed on Sunday.

Punjab is among the worst-affected states in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Sunday, it registered a record 157 deaths and 7,327 new infections.

Underlining the need to step up preparedness amid projections of a coronavirus peak in the coming days, the CM ordered a 20 per cent increase in bed capacity in the next 10 days.

He directed the Health and Medical Education departments to get stadiums, gymnasiums and similar places ready to house patients.

Tented camps should be set up and gyms and halls converted into level-2 and level-3 facilities, he said, adding that “we have to be prepared for the worst”.

The CM ordered a ban on takeaway services at restaurants, saying this was being used by youngsters as a pretext to move out of their homes. Only home delivery of food should be allowed, he said.

The CM said industry should be encouraged to use their CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds for vaccination and treatment of their workers suffering from mild or moderate illness, so that they can stay at home, thus reducing pressure on hospitals.

Singh directed the use of staff from rural development and other departments for tracing Covid contacts in rural areas.

The directives came as Health Minister Balbir Sidhu said the situation was grim with only 300 beds now available at level-3 in the state. Hospitals were getting overwhelmed, he added.

Health Secretary Hussan Lal said the state's positivity rate had on Sunday stood at 12 per cent, with the Malwa region showing increased cases in the last 7-10 days.

With level-3 occupancy at 90 per cent and in some cases 100 per cent, the situation was grim, he said.

Case fatality rate (CFR) was close to 2 per cent and higher -- at 2.7 per cent -- in rural areas. Home deaths currently were also at 2 per cent, he said.

He added that the worrying factor was that 17 per cent of the all deaths had no comorbidity condition.

Dr K K Talwar, head of the state's Covid expert committee, stressed on the monitoring of home isolation cases to identify serious patients quickly, particularly in rural areas.

With no clarity still on whether mutation of the virus was responsible for the current spread, he also underlined the importance of increasing the L3 bed capacity. PTI CHS VSD ASH ASH