Compulsory 21-day quarantine of Punjabis returning to state
CM said after the NRIs and Tabligi Jamaat, the latest threat of the spread of the disease in the state was on account of the pilgrims who were coming back from Gurdwara Hazur Sahib in NandedUpdated: Apr 29, 2020 00:23 IST
After several Nanded returnees tested positive, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced a compulsory 21-day state quarantine for all those returning to the state from other places to check the spread of coronavirus.
“All pilgrims returning from Nanded and students and labourers coming from Rajasthan will be stopped at the border and sent to government quarantine centres to ensure that they do not mix with other people for 21 days,” the CM said during a five-hour video interaction with Congress MLAs on the Covid-19 and lockdown situation even as the count of positive cases rose to 336.
He said after the NRIs and Tabligi Jamaat, the latest threat of the spread of the disease in the state was on account of the pilgrims who were coming back from Gurdwara Hazur Sahib in Nanded (Maharashtra). Another large Jatha is expected to return to Punjab on Wednesday. He said Radha Soami Satsang deras would also be used to quarantine people whose return was being facilitated by the state government.
‘RELAXATIONS WITH RESTRICTIONS SOON’
Amarinder also said the government could go for certain relaxations with restrictions and precautions in the coming days based on the report based on the report of the expert committee formulating the state’s Covid-19 curfew/lockdown exit strategy. On Monday, the CM had, in a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah, requested him to allow opening of small shops, businesses and industries in all areas except containment zones.
The CM also sought feedback from the Congress legislators who spoke sequentially starting from Pathankot. A number of MLAs voiced their concerns and advised the government not to lift the curfew in any kind of hurry in hotspots and other areas where new cases have been surfaced. There was a consensus among them that curfew should be extended for another 15 days and restrictions implemented strictly in such areas.
Advising extreme caution in lifting restrictions, the MLAs also suggested that borders should remain sealed not just around the state but also among the districts and around the villages. They also opined that Covid-19 patients should be hospitalised and treated within their own district, to limit outside contact and exposure.
Balachaur MLA Darshan Lal wanted state’s borders to be strictly sealed to prevent infected cases coming in from other places. A few MLAs also advocated financial relief for farmers and industry, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises and electricity bill waiver for poor.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar suggested allowing industries in rural areas to operate at night to prevent workers from mixing. On the issue of lifting of lockdown, he also urged caution, while emphasising the need to flatten the curve but not flattening the economy.
The issue of shortage of testing facilities, ventilators, relief ration kits etc were raised by many legislators, including Amit Vij and Joginder Pal, MLAs from Pathankot and Bhoa, calling for more sampling.
Some MLAs also suggested to make books available to government school students as they could not all attend online classes, with many of the poor not having smart phones. They called for free internet use and free of cost health facilities for the people amid this unprecedented crisis.
‘ALLOW MIGRANTS TO RETURN TO HOME STATES’
Another concern expressed by some Congress MLAs was regarding lakhs of migrant labourers who wanted to return to their home states. “As we are making arrangements to bring Punjabis from other states, migrant workers should also be allowed go back since most of them do not have any work as most industrial unit are shut. We have tens of thousands of migrant workers in the district. There have been several instances of migrants not following social distancing,” said a legislator from Jalandhar.
However, the chief minister made it clear that his government would make all efforts to retain and care for the migrant labourers, whose return was now being facilitated by various states. “We need to look after them so that they do not leave Punjab, where they are needed to help out in the procurement operations as well as the industries that we are gradually opening up,” he said.
Hoist national flag to protest Centre’s ‘bias’, says Jakhar
The Punjab Congress has asked all people in the state to hoist the national flag atop their houses on May 1 to protest against the Centre’s “discrimination” against non-BJP ruled states in extending financial support in the fight against coronavirus. The party would demand an immediate relief of ₹20,000 crore from the Centre.
The idea was mooted by Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar and seconded by chief minister Amarinder Singh at a video interaction held by the latter with party MLAs. Amarinder put the government’s monthly revenue loss at ₹3,360 crore as a result of the pandemic-induced curfew. The state would end up with a loss of almost ₹50,000 crore in a year but had received no help so far from the Centre to tackle the crisis, he added.
The state government’s latest estimate of revenue loss is considerably higher than the figure of ₹22,000 crore given by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal in a meeting of a cabinet sub-committee constituted to take stock of the financial implications of Covid-19 pandemic.
“The event, coinciding with May Day (Labour Day), will serve to underscore the right of Punjab to central aid in this unprecedented crisis,” said Jakhar, adding, “The party will organize the national flags for all those participating in the May 1 event”.