Chandigarh, August 7: (Punjab Khabarnama) Concerned over the rising number of Covid cases in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has ordered night curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 am in the worst affected cities of Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala from Saturday, while directing all big cities/towns to prepare integrated management plan for treatment of the disease at both Government and private facilities.


          As cases in the state went up to 20,891, with 1050 instances reported on one day on Thursday, the Chief Minister also announced a week-long trial of enforcement of the mandatory mask wearing rule by making offenders stand at the spot for an hour with a mask on. He was of the view that making the offenders sweat it out might help check the violations on this count, which had crossed 3.82 lakhs.


          Answering questions in his weekly #AskCaptain Live session on Facebook, which was advanced by a day to apprise the people about his visit today to the hooch tragedy affected Tarn Taran district, Captain Amarinder also appealed to the people to get themselves tested early and start treatment in a proper hospital, urging them not to rush to private tertiary care facility directly since good treatment is available in government hospitals. There were adequate testing facilities available in the state, he said, adding that four new testing labs would become operational on Monday. Delay in going for testing and treatment was the main cause for increasing number of Covid deaths, he said, pointing out that with 26 persons succumbing yesterday, the death toll in the state had gone up to 517 (2.47%).


          Expressing concern over the steady increase in Covid infections and positivity in the state, which reported 8.50% cases in samples tested in past one week, the Chief Minister said with the peak projected to come in Punjab by end of August or early September, one could not be certain how high the peak of daily cases may go. Given the recent increase in cases in districts like Bathinda, Barnala, Ferozepur, we cannot afford to be complacent, he said, urging people to hold their nerve in these tough circumstances and fight the disease with strength and determination.


          In response to a question, the Chief Minister directed an inquiry by the Vice Chancellor into case of death of a non-Covid patient, Dr Parvinder, at GGS Medical College, Faridkot, as doctors refused to treat him till the file work was completed and Covid test report came, even though he was suffering from low Oxygen levels. Expressing his deepest sympathies with the deceased’s wife, Dr. Neeta Pandhu from Abohar, he said this was not acceptable and patient has to be attended first at all costs. Strict action will be taken against those found responsible, he added.


          He also shared details of various announcements he had made earlier in Tarn Taran, including enhanced ex-gratia compensation, as well as decisions on appointing Special Public Prosecutors for speedy and proper trial and amending the Excise Act to ensure that repeat offenders do not go scot free. He said in response to a question that the managerial probe into the incident will be completed within three weeks and all those found complicit will be brought to book.


          In response to a question from a Tarn Taran resident regarding what the hooch tragedy affected families had told him during their meeting, the chief minister said they want strong action and punishment for the culprits. Though they did not demand it, but he had announced financial help and had directed the DC to ensure that they get what they need, in terms of even jobs and improving their houses, he added. “We will go beyond financial compensation for the families of the victims,” he said. He reiterated his commitment to wiping out hooch problem from the state and said he had directed the DGP to crack down on the hooch smugglers.


          On long queues for payment of electricity bills, with no social distancing, the Chief Minister said he will issue instructions to the chairman of the electricity board to rectify the situation. On delay in issuance of heavy vehicle driving licence issuance/renewal in some districts, he said the delay was due to social distancing norms but he would ask the Department to find ways of expediting the process without compromising on the Covid protocols.


          On a request for directions to the agriculture department for ensuring supply of good quality pesticides for paddy, and strict actions suppliers of spurious pesticides, the Chief Minister said he had issued strict instructions to the department to conduct regular checks against fake pesticides. He urged the farmers to buy insecticides from only registered dealers.


          Responding to another question, the Chief Minister directed DC Muktsar Sahib to inquire into a complaint regarding pressure being put by the principal of DAV Public School on students for payment of fee by refusing to give their note-books. Making it clear that he will not allow this kind of behaviour, he promised prosecution against any school indulging in such acts. To a similar question on pressure from a college for fee payment, he said the Higher Education Department will probe the matter.


          In response to a request from a Fatehgarh Sahib resident to allow the livestock market to resume operations, which were suspended in March causing massive losses to the people, Captain Amarinder said he will direct the Department to let the mandi operate, but with total adherence to safety protocols.


          The Chief Minister assured a Patiala resident that the delayed exams for the post of Patwari will be held soon, and the positions will be offered now on central government scales, for which the proposal was being finalised for submission to SSB.


          To a complaint from a Pathankot resident about non-acceptance of the Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana card for admission to a hospital, the Chief Minister said the hospital in question was not empaneled and card-holders need to go only to empaneled hospitals.