- Punjab imposes daily night curfew, weekend lockdown, starting Friday
- 50% non-essential goods shops in 5 worst-hit districts to be shut
- State bans public gatherings, except during weddings, funerals
Punjab has ordered a daily night curfew - from 7 PM to 5 AM, starting Friday - and a weekend lockdown in all 167 cities and towns in the state, as part of a strict response to the worrying surge in Covid cases.
The emergency measures, which will be in place till August 31, include restrictions on public and private transport, a ban on public gatherings (except for weddings and funerals) and closing of 50 per cent of shops, in the five worst-affected districts, selling non-essential goods.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, making the announcement on Thursday evening, called for "war-like preparedness" to deal with the spike in coronavirus cases.
"Enough is enough. We need to be tough without affecting the state's economy," the Chief Minister said today, adding that each of the more than 900 Covid-linked deaths in the state "pains me".
The measures were announced after a serological survey of the five worst-hit districts - Amritsar, Ludhiana, SAS Nagar, Patiala and Jalandhar. Conducted between August 1 and 17, the survey revealed that 27.7 per cent of all people in containment zones in these districts had been exposed to the virus.
"The projections for the coming weeks are grim," the Chief Minister said, asserting the state was in an "emergency health situation that necessitated harsh measures".
As part of these measures government and private offices will function at 50 per cent strength; government offices have also been encouraged to reduce the number of visitors. Public transport will run at 50 per cent capacity and private cars must have no more than three passengers per vehicle.
The Chief Minister also directed the police to ensure the ban on political protests and gathering is followed, and asked his own party - the Congress - to self-enforce the ban strictly.
Punjab has over 36,000 confirmed Covid cases so far, of which more than 900 are deaths linked to the virus and over 12,000 are active cases. On Wednesday the state reported 24 deaths and 1,693 new cases. On Tuesday 1,704 new cases were reported - a record single-day spike.
With one eye on the rising number of cases Amarinder Singh also ordered Covid testing to be scaled up to a minimum of 30,000 per day. In addition, contact tracing of each infected person must extend to at least 10 people.
According to the results of the sero-survey, Amritsar was the district with highest prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies, with 40 per cent of population in containment zones testing positive.
Ludhiana had 35.6 per cent and SAS Nagar 33.2 per cent, while Patiala and Jalandhar had 19.2 per cent and 10.8 per cent, respectively. Together these five districts have contributed nearly 80 per cent of the state's total caseload.