Night curfew across Punjab, political gatherings banned

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Chandigarh, Apr 7 (PTI) Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced on Wednesday extension of night curfew across Punjab and a ban on political gatherings till April 30 due to the surge in coronavirus cases.

Singh slammed his Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal for their 'irresponsible conduct' in attending rallies without following coronavirus guidelines.

Making it clear that those violating the ban on political gatherings would be booked under the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act, Singh said he had been forced to order the ban 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 asked.

The chief minister said the night curfew, which was imposed in 12 districts, would be extended to all 22 districts of the state. He also directed Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta to ensure strict implementation of the curfew from 9 pm to 5 am.

As part of the fresh curbs, the number of people who can attend funerals and weddings has been reduced to 50 people for indoors and 100 for outdoors. Wearing masks has been made mandatory for all government employees while in office, according to a statement.

These restrictions shall remain effective till April 30.

The SAD said the decision to ban all political gatherings till April 30 was direct fallout of the 'resounding success' of its 'Punjab Mangda Jawab' rallies, adding that and that the Congress government had resorted to this step to prevent the 'public anger from boiling over'.

In a statement, SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema claimed that the ban on public meetings had more to do with the discomfiture of the Congress and its chief than with the pandemic.

He said the SAD rallies had been exposing Amarinder Singh's alleged false promises made to the people before last polls.

Meanwhile, 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, the statement said.

Sixty-three more people died from coronavirus in Punjab, taking the toll to 7,278 on Wednesday, while the tally rose to 2.6 lakh with 2,997 new cases, the Health Department said.

The chief minister expressed concern at the high positivity and mortality rates in the state, and that over 85 per cent of the new cases in Punjab are of the UK strain.

Amarinder Singh said he had no option but to go in for stricter measures to control the surge, even as the number of cases had somewhat stabilised in the last few days.

The chief minister said venue owners and those who provide the infrastructure for such politicial gatherings should also be booked. also made it clear that no social, cultural or sports gatherings and related functions will be allowed till April 30.

In-person public dealings shall be restricted in all government offices and virtual modes for grievance redressal shall be encouraged, he said.

Restrictions of running cinema houses at 50 per cent 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 HMB