Millennium Post

Punjab extends lockdown till May 1

Chandigarh: The Punjab government Friday extended the ongoing lockdown till May 1, amid rising number of coronavirus cases and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh apprehending the state might be moving towards the community transmission stage of the outbreak.

The decision to extend the lockdown was taken at a video-conference meeting of the council of ministers, chaired by Singh, to check the community spread of the pandemic and to prevent overcrowding at the mandis in the light of the ensuing wheat harvesting and procurement season, the government said in a statement here.

Chief Minister Singh said in a tweet, Given the seriousness of the situation arising out of #Covid19, Cabinet has decided to extend lockdown & curfew till 1st May. These are difficult times & I appeal to all to #StayHomeStaySafe & strictly observe health safeguards as you have done so far, for which I am thankful.

Just before him, KBS Sidhu, Punjab Special Chief Secretary had tweeted, PUNJAB CABINET @capt_amarinder UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES EXTENSION OF PUNJAB CURFEW/ LOCKDOWN till 30 April, 2020/ 1st May, 2020. Extension by 21 days from today. Strict enforcement.

Punjab became the second state after Odisha to extend the lockdown, even as the Centre considers proposals by several states to continue the restrictions beyond April 14, when the ongoing nationwide 21-day lockdown is slated to end.

The Punjab government statement said the Chief Minister will convey the decision of extending the lockdown to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his conference with CMs on Saturday.

Punjab was the first state in the country that had clamped curfew on March 23 to check the spread of the coronavirus.

The state has seen a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in the past few days, pushing the total count to 151 with 11 deaths till Friday evening. On Friday, 21 fresh cases were reported from the state.

Earlier in the day, the CM told a media briefing that most of the 27 positive cases reported in Punjab on Thursday (the maximum daily increase for the state) were those of secondary transmission and expressed apprehension that the state may be entering the community transmission stage of the outbreak.

Citing the grim projections about the spread of the pandemic in the coming weeks, the CM said the curfew restrictions were essential so that the state's medical infrastructure is not burdened beyond its capabilities.

There was general consensus in the medical community that the lockdown curbs would only delay the spread of the disease, he said, hoping that some medication/cure would be found soon.

On a proposal by the CM, the council of ministers also decided to set up a multi-disciplinary task force to formulate an exit strategy for gradual relaxation of curfew/lockdown.

The task force comprising 15 members representing trade, business, industry, agriculture, civil society and healthcare professionals, will submit its report within 10 days.

The cabinet also approved establishment of a high-powered committee to suggest a roadmap for the state's economic revival in post-COVID-19 period.

An official release quoting Amarinder Singh said he will request former Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to head the committee.

The council of ministers also resolved to urge upon the Centre to establish an Advance Centre of Virology in Punjab with an anticipated investment of Rs 500 crore. The state government will offer land free of cost for the project, it decided.

For the quick upgradation of the state's health infrastructure to combat the current crisis, the cabinet set up a task force under the Principal Secretary, PWD, to look into it.

Punjab Health Systems Corporation MD will be other members of the task force, which will carry out the task of quick upgradation of health infrastructure in a time-bound manner.

The CM asked the health department to submit a detailed proposal for this.

The Odisha government had on Thursday announced an extension of the ongoing lockdown till April 30 and declared schools and other educational institutions will remain closed till June 17.

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