Chandigarh, July 23:

          COVID-19 patients violating home isolation instructions in Punjab will have to shell out Rs 5000 as fine, as per the new guidelines announced on Thursday by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. Currently there are 951 patients in home isolation across the state.

          The Chief Minister also announced imposition of Rs 5000 as fine for owners of restaurants and commercial eating places violating social distancing norms, as a deterrent against defiance of the restrictions put in place to heck the spread of the pandemic in the state.

          Further, violation of social distancing norms and social gatherings of more than the permitted strength will lead to penalty amounting to a whopping Rs 10000, the Chief Minister said at a Video Conference meeting to review the Covid situation and preparedness in the state.

          The fines/penalties announced today are in addition to those announced earlier, in May, for not wearing a mask in public places (Rs 500), violation of home quarantine instructions (Rs 200) and spitting at public places (Rs 500). Under the existing guidelines, shops/commercial places are liable to pa Rs 2000 for violation of social distancing norms, while for buses and cars such violations are punishable by Rs 3000 and Rs 2000 fine respectively, and in the case of auto-rickshaws/2-wheelers, the fine stands at Rs 500.

          The additional fines come even as instances of violations continue to be reported from across the state, with average daily challans for not wearing masks standing at around 5000, as per DGP Dinkar Gupta. Captain Amarinder directly stern steps to ensure strict enforcement of mandatory wearing of masks, as per the guidelines issued by the state government.

          The Chief Minister also appealed to the Heads and Managements of various religious institutions to ensure enforcement of social distancing restrictions and other Covid safety guidelines, including masks, during visits to religious places in the state. He urged them to make regular announcements in this regard through Public Address Systems.

          Captain Amarinder reiterated his earlier appeal to the Kisan Unions not to come out on the roads to protest against the central government’s anti-farmer Ordinances but to defer any such movements to check the spread of Covid.

          In another initiative, the Chief Minister has directed that mask vending machines be installed at vantage points such as bus stands etc.

          Meanwhile, the Chief Minister directed Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan and health experts to work out the modalities for setting up Plasma Banks also in the Government Medical Colleges at Fardikot and Amritsar, in addition to Patiala, where the state’s first Plasma Bank was inaugurated on July 21. On the first day itself, four donors had given their plasma the Bank.

          He also appealed to those already cured of Covid to donate their plasma to help out those fighting the disease. The Chief Secretary informed the meeting that IAS and PCS officers who have recovered are also being encouraged to lead the way by donating their plasma. DGP Dinkar Gupta said three policemen, including one Punjab Home Guards jawan, had also donated convalescent plasma at Patiala and DMC.

          Expressing concern over the rising number of cases, which has now touched 11301 in the state with 269 deaths, the Chief Minister called for extreme caution and directed the DGP to ensure strict enforcement of all the norms. Pointing out that 28 police personnel at Nathana police station in District Bathinda had tested positive, he advised employees with fever or flu-like symptoms not to come to office but to get themselves tested at the earliest. All the 28 cops were primary contacts of an ASI who had tested positive some days back, the DGP said.

          Gupta further informed the meeting that another such case had been reported from Sub Division Lehra, where a total of 33 personnel (about 40% of total force) had tested positive at Lehra PS, two police posts and DSP Office in a space of 2-3 days earlier this week. He further disclosed that the Kharkhan BSF Campus, which had turned into a super-spreader, had reported 126 of the 723 samples whose test reports had so far been received. Results in 133 cases were pending while another 127 were yet to be sampled. The positive cases were all asymptomatic and had been sent to COVID care unit at BSF HQ Jalandhar.

          Citing the high positivity rate in Ludhiana and Jalandhar, the Chief Minister directed the Health Department to step up surveillance and testing in these districts to contain further spread of the pandemic. Jalandhar currently has the maximum of 18 micro-containment zones in the state, Dr KK Talwar informed the meeting.