- Chief Minister Amarinder Singh addressed press via video conference
- Farmers allowed to harvest crops, restriction to be lifted district-wise
- State is expecting wheat harvest of 185 lakh tonnes, he said
Punjab will allow farmers temporary relief from coronavirus lockdown restrictions to help them harvest crops, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said today, adding that restrictions would be lifted district-wise. The state is expecting a bumper wheat crop of around 185 lakh tonnes and it is necessary to ensure adequate harvest arrangements, the Chief Minister added, addressing a press conference via video conference.
"We are now faced with harvesting. Until April 14 there is a lockdown and from April 15 the harvesting of wheat will start. We are getting a bumper harvest, the fourth year in a row," Amarinder Singh said.
The Chief Minister also said the state cabinet would today decide on extending the lockdown for other parts of the state that are currently under the 21-day nationwide "total lockdown" imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.
The lockdown is scheduled to end April 14 but in a video meeting with leaders of all parties on Wednesday, PM Modi had said by all accounts the lifting of the lockdown "is not possible".
"People are fed up because it has been a long time there but it (the lockdown) was necessary. Just after coronavirus started and before the lockdown took place, 95,000 Punjabi people came back (and) additionally 44,000 came through Delhi," Amarinder Singh said.
"While everyone was checked at airports sometimes symptoms don't show until later. We put them into quarantine, had teams visit their homes & check after 7-10 days. It became a major operation. Most of them are now out of quarantine," he added.
Punjab was the second state, after Kerala, to go into complete lockdown to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus. The state has 132 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths, the Chief Minister said today.
"It has taken us time but at the moment, things are under control. As far as testing is concerned, as of today, we have 132 confirmed cases in the state out of which 11 people have died. We have collected 2877 samples so far," the Chief Minister said.
Amarinder Singh also revealed that 651 people linked to Islamic sect Tablighi Jamaat had entered Punjab. Of these 636 had been traced so far, he added.
The Jamaat had defied health warnings to hold a gathering in Delhi last month and has been linked to more than 1,445 cases across the country.
In his briefing today Amarinder Singh also admitted a shortage of medical equipment and PPEs (personal protection equipment) for doctors and healthcare workers, saying: "We didn't expect this".
The Chief Minister outlined a four-phase ramping up of health infrastructure in the state, with the final stage preparing for a possible one lakh patients.
States have struggled to deal with the demands the outbreak has placed on their respective health infrastructures, leading the centre to announce a fully-funded five-year scheme worth Rs 15,000 crores to address this issue.
The Punjab government has already ordered 101 new ventilators (to help patients with respiratory problems) and 2.7 lakh N95 face masks. The state has also ordered more PPE kits from local manufacturers.
Across the country over 6,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 199 deaths, have been reported. Worldwide more than 16 lakh people have been infected and nearly 96,000 have died.
With input from PTI