Amid the grim Covid situation in Delhi and its neighbouring districts, and apprehensions of a second wave in Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday ordered a series of fresh restrictions, including night curfew. He has also told private hospitals to take stock of bed availability amid patient inflow from Delhi, and immediately appoint more doctors and nurses to meet future needs.
Punjab has re-imposed night curfew between 10 pm and 5 am in all its cities and towns starting December 1. "Hotels, restaurants and marriage venues will shut down at 9.30 pm," Mr Singh said.
With this, Punjab has become the sixth state to impose a night curfew because of a fresh infection spike after Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
The fine for not wearing masks and social distancing in public places has also been doubled to Rs 1,000, a government spokesperson said after a high-level state Covid review meeting.
All curbs would be reviewed on December 15.
In view of "inflow of patients from Delhi for treatment", Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan has been directed to work towards optimising bed-availability, including those with oxygen and in ICUs, in private hospitals, an official statement read. The state has also asked more private hospitals to earmark beds for Covid care.
Emergency appointment of specialists, super-specialists, nurses and paramedics has been ordered in addition to the recent recruitment of 249 doctors and 407 medical officers.
As back-up workforce, the Health and Medical Education department has been told to consider preparing 4th and 5th year MBBS students.
Punjab recorded 614 new cases with 22 deaths; its capital, Chandigarh, which it shares with Haryana, saw 79 more infections and 2 deaths. Overall, Punjab has a total of about 1.5 lakh cases, with at least 4,600 deaths.
Though Punjab ranks well in case reporting and testing, including high use of the more reliable RT-PCR tests, its neighbouring states of Haryana and Delhi have remained a cause of worry.
While Delhi is in the middle of a third and severe wave that has seen high mortality among COVID-19 patients, Haryana's daily case count at least doubled from an earlier 1,000-odd cases since Diwali.
All district hospitals have been told to made Covid testing a 24x7 facility, as the Punjab Chief Minister ordered that such facilities should be set-up at "other convenient locations as well", besides full utilisation of the 25,500 daily RT-PCR testing capacity.
Punjab has also hired an agency to follow-up with Covid patients in home isolation to prevent deaths.
Punjab has a Covid fatality rate of 3.2 per cent, almost double the national rate of about 1.5 per cent.