Students seen wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against coronavirus at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar on Saturday.(Sameer Sehgal/HT)
Students seen wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against coronavirus at Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar on Saturday.(Sameer Sehgal/HT)

State shuts down cinema halls, gyms; public gatherings banned

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE Health minister says only one positive case of coronavirus has been reported in state and no suspected patient is absconding or missing
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By HT Correspondent, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON MAR 14, 2020 09:55 PM IST

A day after closure of all educational institutions in the state till March 31, the Punjab government on Saturday ordered a shutdown of cinema halls, gyms, swimming pools and banned public gatherings, including cultural events, till further notice to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“All public gatherings, including sports events, conferences, cultural events, fairs and exhibitions have also been banned from March 14 midnight till further orders. The decision has been taken as a precautionary measure to prevent the virus outbreak,” Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said at a press conference.

The decision on closing down of shopping malls, restaurants and taverns will be taken after reviewing the status of the outbreak in the coming days, said the health minister.

He also contradicted reports of seven suspected corona cases in Ludhiana reported as absconding or missing. “Many reports are claiming that 335 passengers who came to Punjab from corona-hit countries have not been traced. This is irresponsible and incorrect reporting. The fact is that the Government of India has shared a list of 6,850 passengers with the Punjab government. All of them have been screened at different airports and have been found asymptomatic. The state authorities have managed to contact all 6,058 passengers to date and are under surveillance. The contact details of 335 passengers are incomplete and lists have been shared with district administration to contact these persons,” said Sidhu.

He said all these passengers have not come from corona-hit countries and it’s wrong to claim it that they are suspected Covid-19 cases.

“Of the total 6,058 passengers contacted by health department, 3,754 have crossed the 14-day observation period; 2,215 are still under surveillance of which 10 are under hospital observation whereas 2,205 are in home surveillance,” said the minister.

Of the 96 samples, only one tested positive for coronavirus in the state. The condition of the Italy-returned man, who is currently admitted to a government hospital in Amritsar, is stable, he said, adding that no suspected patient of Covid-19 is absconding or missing in the state.

NO RETIREMENT OF DOC, STAFF TILL SEPT

As one time measure, doctors and paramedical staff working with health department will continue to work till September 30 irrespective of their retirement after completing the age of 58 years.

“The decision has been taken keeping in view the emergent situation arising out of the Covid-19. The doctors and paramedical staff who will be at extension will not be eligible for promotion and additional perks,” reads an order by principal secretary, health and family welfare department, Anurag Aggarwal.

In a another decision, the health department has notified that doctors working in dispensaries of rural and panchayati raj department will also start taking directions from civil surgeons due to coronavirus outbreak till further orders.

Meanwhile, chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh on Saturday apprised the cabinet secretary, Government of India, Rajiv Gauba about the status and situation in the state following Covid-19 outbreak video-conferencing.

The chief secretary informed Gauba that Punjab had already taken all possible precautionary measures to avert the virus outbreak.

The chief secretary also sought more funds to the state under the National Health Mission.

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