Chandigarh, August 21

A day after announcing a fresh set of lockdown restrictions in the state till August 31, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered imposition of Section 144 to prohibit all gatherings of more than 5 persons, other than marriage and bhog ceremonies, warning of strict action against organisers of such gatherings.

Making it clear that he would not hesitate to take any harsh steps necessary to save lives, he

warned of even more stringent measures after August 31 if needed to check Covid spread and save the lives of the people of Punjab.

He appealed to all political parties to avoid any gatherings, including protests. In case of any violation of Section 144, the organisers who are putting people at risk by organising such gatherings or allowing people to gather without masks will be arrested, he said, warning of total strictness in this matter.

The Chief Minister also requested all religious and community leaders to ask their followers to take all restrictions/precautions as imposed and not to violate Section 144, in the interest of the state, which was witnessing an increase in Covid cases. He also directed the police to strictly enforce prescribed number and social distancing at marriage and bhog ceremonies.

The Covid cases in the state had gone up to 37,824, on account of increased testing, said Captain Amarinder, disclosing that 20,290 samples were tested yesterday, of which 1741 were found positive – a positivity rate of 8.5%. The average daily increase for the last seven days was 1400+, he pointed out, adding that 37 people had died yesterday, taking the total number of Covid deaths to 957 and mortality rate to 2.5%. There were, as of yesterday, 349 patients on Oxygen and 39 on Ventilator, which was a cause for concern, said the Chief Minister, adding that the maximum number of cases last week were reported from Ludhiana, Patiala, Jalandhar, Mohali & Bathinda.

The statistics paint a gloomy picture, Captain Amarinder said during today’s edition of Facebook Live #AskCaptain, warning that if people do not take necessary precautions , things will only get worse. Unfortunately, people were now taking things lightly, forcing the government to take harsh measures, some of which were announced yesterday, said the Chief Minister, adding that 3000-6000 cases of people being challaned for not wearing masks on a daily basis.

It may be recalled that on Thursday, the Chief Minister had ordered re-imposition of several lockdown restrictions in the state, including weekend lockdown, daily night curfew from 7 p.m to 5 a.m in all cities/towns, shutdown of 50% non-essential shops in the 5 big towns of Punjab (Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Amritsar and Mohali) on daily basis, all Government and private offices to work at 50% strength, and private cars to ply with not more than 3 persons with  buses and public transport to ply at 50% capacity.

“Why don’t we understand that the precautions are necessary for saving your lives and those of other Punjabis?,” said Captain Amarinder, urging people to pay heed to his repeated appeals. Noting that the state was headed towards a peak, he said by September 3, the cases in Punjab are projected to go up to 64000, and cross one lakh by September 15. Deaths will also increase, with experts estimating over 1500 deaths by September 3, he warned, hoping that the people will listen to him and take due precautions. “We don’t have to let Punjab go the America way,” he added.

Stressing that testing and timely treatment was the key, Captain Amarinder said it was important to report to hospitals within 72 hours of onset of symptoms. There was no stigma attached to it, and he had also got himself tested twice, he added.

The Chief Minister also reiterated his appeal to recovered patients to donate plasma for saving the lives of others.  Many police personnel and PCS officers have already pledged their plasma, he pointed out, urging all citizens who had been cured of the disease to do it too. The Chief Minister thanked all frontline workers, including police personnel, doctors & other healthcare staff, government employees and NGOs etc, for leading the battle from the front.

In response to a question from a Ludhiana resident seeking clarification on rumours in his village of the state government getting Rs 3 lakh from Centre for every Covid positive patient, the Chief Minister categorically denied receiving any money from the central government for the Covid fight. This information is wrong, not a single rupee has been received, he said, adding that his government had repeatedly, in fact, written to the Centre for financial support to fight the pandemic.