COULD CONSIDER LOCKDOWN IN SOME AREAS BUT ECONOMIC ACTIVITY WILL NOT BE SUSPENDED: CM PUNJAB
· AS COVID CASES SURGE, PUNJAB CABINET REVIEWS SITUATION, CM SAYS NOT AVERSE TO HARSHER MEASURES
· MONTEK BRIEF CABINET ON RECOMMENDATIONS, AGAIN DENIES SUGGESTING WITHDRAWAL OF FREE POWER TO FARMERS
CHANDIGARH: Expressing serious concern over the surge in Covid cases and increasing number of deaths per million in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday said he was not averse to imposing harsher measures to check further spread of the pandemic.
At a virtual conference (VC) meeting of his cabinet, which reviewed the Covid situation, the Chief Minister, in response to a suggestion from the Expert Health Advisory Committee chairman Dr KK Talwar, said if needed, the state government would consider going in for strong measures to combat the coronavirus.
Though he did not rule out lockdown, especially in areas with high spike in cases, Captain Amarinder made it clear that economic activity will not be allowed to suffer. Earlier, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is heading the Expert Group for revival of the state’s economy, also said any measures to check the Covid spread should not impact economic activity.
Montek also reiterated, while briefing the cabinet on the Group’s initial recommendations, that there was no suggestion made on withdrawal of free power to farmers, as was being projected by a section of the media. He clarified this on the Chief Minister’s remarks that a lot of misinformation was being spread on this count. Montek said the Group was in favour of diversification to reduce dependence on Paddy, and wanted Punjab to spend 20% more per year, for the next 5 years, on development public health infrastructure. Warning that the state must also be ready for a second spike, the economist said if lockdowns had to be introduced in certain areas then strict protocols should be put in place to ensure that there is no impact on industrial and income generating avenues.
The Chief Minister said the Montek group’s recommendations would be circulated to all ministers and a detailed discussion will be held thereafter on the issue.
In his presentation on the Covid crisis, Dr Talwar said the four districts of Ludhiana, Mohali, Jalandhar and Patiala were witnessing the maximum surge and needed more stricter preventive measures to control the situation. The situation in the state, he said, was grim, with 31000+ cases and more than 800 fatalities. Deaths per million had also gone up to 27.2, and as many as 265 patients were on oxygen and 20 on ventilators at present, he said, underlining the need for early testing and treatment for saving lives. The state had reached 20000 tests per day, including rapid antigen testing, he said.
Dr Talwar cited researchers to point out that strict adherence to wearing of masks for the next four weeks could help control the pandemic. Captain Amarinder said the district and police officials had strict directives to enforce masks and other Covid safety protocols.