Ban on Social Gatherings, Night Curfew: Punjab to Shut Down 11 Districts With High Covid Caseload

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To curb the rise of Covid-19 cases in Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ordered a major crackdown; banning social gatherings in the 11 worst-hit districts of the state and closing educational institutions, other than medical and nursing colleges, till March 31.

The state has also ordered a 50% capacity limit in cinema halls and not more than 100 persons in a mall at any time. The CM asked people to keep ‘social activity’ at their household to the bare minimum for the next two weeks to break the transmission chain. Not more than 10 visitors should be entertained in homes, he said.

In the districts – Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Mohali, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, SBS Nagar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and Moga – a complete ban has been ordered on all social gatherings and related functions, except for funerals/cremations/ weddings, which will be allowed with only 20 persons in attendance. This will be enforced from Sunday, March 21.

In these districts, which will remain under night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am, the Chief Minister has also ordered cinemas, multiplexes, restaurants, malls, among other such places, to remain closed on Sundays, though home deliveries will be allowed subject to night curfew.

Industries and essential services will be allowed to function, but barring these, all restrictions are to be strictly enforced, the CM told top civic and police officials in the districts.

Capt Amarinder has ordered restrictions on in-person public dealings in government offices, with citizens to be encouraged to visit offices only for essential services, in the districts. He has also directed officials to encourage online and virtual modes for grievance redressal, and asked concerned departments to issue necessary instructions for limiting appointments per day for registries.

Even though other districts will not be placed under such stringent restrictions for now, the Chief Minister has ordered immediate reinforcement and strict monitoring of the strategy of micro-containment and containment zones where there are evident clusters.

He made it clear that if necessary, strict curbs will also be imposed in other districts if the situation worsens. The situation will be reviewed after two weeks, he said, chairing a meeting of the Covid Task Force with top officials.

The names of the Covid Monitors, who are appointed at every establishment and office should be available with the District Administration, along with their numbers, said the Chief Minister.

K K Talwar, who heads the state government's expert team on Covid, said the surge in cases appeared to be the result of opening of schools and colleges, with young asymptomatic people apparently spreading the virus.

There was no evidence as of now to show that the spike was due to the mutants, as only two cases of new strains had been found in Punjab so far. The state currently has almost 40% cases from under 30 population, he added.