Two days after addressing a massive rally in Fazilka, Lok Sabha MP and Shiromani AKali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday. His reports came in the wake of continued upward curve in the number of coronavirus cases in Punjab triggering another health alert.
With election to Assembly slated for next year and the raging months-long farmers protest, heavy political activities involving a large number of big and small rallies have become a cause of concern for the administration. Social distancing norms are being broken with impunity at not just the rallies, but also at venues where farmers are holding agitations across the state.
On Tuesday, Badal took to Twitter to announce that he had tested positive for the virus and said his party has now decided to put on hold its rallies till March 31. Badal's infection came a week after state Finance Minister Manpreet Badal tested positive days after presenting the budget in the Assembly.
While Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu accepted the rising numbers were a major concern, he refused to blame it on the agitations against three central farm laws. He instead pinned the blame on political rallies. "These (political rallies) are a matter of concern. Restrictions of not having more than 200 people in outdoor gatherings are in place, but at these rallies no one is following the rules,'' said Sidhu.
He also did not want to term any of the gatherings as super-spreader events. "Political rallies can be avoided right now. The elections are still a year away and leaders themselves should realise this and not hold rallies. But as a government, if we impose ban, it will be termed as political vendetta,'' said Sidhu. He said that though strict orders for gatherings are already in place, the government will not shy away from taking stern actions against such gatherings in the coming days. He further said the influx of NRIs in cities like Nawanshaher has added to the rising numbers.
In an order passed late on Sunday, Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Khaira made it mandatory for people attending social gatherings (100 for indoors and 200 for outdoors) in the district to present a Covid-19 negative report or proof that they have been vaccinated.