Punjab lockdown to continue till May 17, certain relaxations announced

Chandigarh, Apr 29 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday announced extension of the lockdown in the state by two weeks after May 3, though some relaxations have been given in areas that do not fall under the containment or red zones.

However, containment zones will continue to remain under total and strict lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus, he said while addressing the people of the state.

Based on the report of the expert committee set up to formulate the state's lockdown exit strategy and the inputs received from various sections of the society, the chief minister said it was necessary to continue with the lockdown restrictions for some more time.

The lockdown in the state will now remain in force in Punjab till May 17, though limited easing of restrictions will be in place from Thursday from 7 AM to 11 AM every day, he said.

The chief minister said certain shops will be allowed to remain open in specific areas by rotation for four hours every morning, with 50 per cent staff strength.

The deputy commissioners have been directed to work out a schedule for the shops that are allowed to be opened, he said.

The situation will be reviewed after two weeks and further relaxations will be announced thereafter if the pandemic remains in control, the chief minister said.

The curfew to enforce the lockdown will remain in place after 11 AM as usual, said the Chief Minister, appealing to people to be back in their homes by that time and to maintain social distancing.

The Punjab government had announced imposition of curfew in the state on March 23 to enforce the lockdown in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.

'All those stepping out during the relaxation period would have to wear masks and maintain a two-metre distance from others,' he said, adding that the relief has been provided only for the convenience of the people and should not be used for social interactions.

'If the situation improves after two weeks, we can take more steps,' the chief minister said.

The limited relaxations announced from Thursday include permission for opening of all registered shops, except those in multi-brand and single-brand malls, with 50 per cent strength of workers from 7 am to 11 am.

In urban areas, all stand-alone shops, neighbourhood shops and shops in residential complexes are allowed to open during this period, the CM said.

However, establishments dealing in services like saloons and barber shops would continue to remain closed, he said.

Further, e-commerce companies will continue to be permitted to deal in essential goods only during this period, he said.

Expressing his government's keenness to see the industries up and running, the chief minister urged all those who could accommodate workers or had workers staying in the vicinity to start opening up in order to help revive the state's battered economy.

Referring to the large number of people from the state stranded in other parts of the country due to the lockdown, the chief minister said it was his government's duty to bring them back but they would have to be quarantined for 21 days.

The state had made arrangements for their quarantine in all districts, he said, adding that the problem had aggravated in Punjab due to the large number of NRIs who came home, followed by the attendees of the Nizamuddin event.

The state, he said, could not afford to let things spiral out of control due to those coming from outside.

Keeping those coming home from other states in quarantine was essential for protection of the people, he said.

Earlier, the chief minister said the relief announced today was for the benefit of the people who had been under severe curfew restrictions for the past 38 days.

Describing it as a difficult time for the people, who had sacrificed a lot for themselves, their families and the state at large,  Amarinder Singh said it had been necessary to control the pandemic, which had so far infected 330 people in the state.

While various experts were coming out with different opinions, there seemed to be an indication that the coronavirus crisis could continue till July-August, or even September, the chief minister said, terming it a 'long-drawn battle'. PTI CHS VSD RT